Overcrowded emergency departments


Sir, – It is hardly surprising that one of the issues of most concern to the Irish electorate in recent surveys is healthcare, and Fintan O’Toole makes a good case for the need to invest in “relatively cheap but perfectly appropriate levels of care” (“New government must stop throwing good money after bad”, Opinion & Analysis, January 28th).

Your columnist argues that “most people would be much better off being treated in local primary-care centres rather than going to A&E departments”, but points out that “our perverse system makes it cheaper for the individual patient to use the most expensive facilities” (ie emergency departments rather than GP surgeries). He also says that the “largely unspoken dilemma” is that the government will need to spend (a little) more to divert people from attending overcrowded hospital emergency departments.

I would add another conundrum to the mix: that of the list of TDs who have recently expressed “shock” when they “discovered” the difficulties encountered in our emergency departments, despite the best efforts of hospital staff and countless constituents, and reports in The Irish Times dating back at least 30 years.

It occurs to me that perhaps the simplest, most cost-effective, solution to the perennial difficulty that our parliamentary representatives have in grasping the reality of the health system “frontline” would be for the electors to ask every canvasser at their doorstep in the coming days, “And when were you last in our local A&E department?” – Yours, etc,


Consultant in

Emergency Medicine,

Adjunct Senior Lecturer

in Public Health,

University College Cork.