Doctors 'may not even have a trolley to examine suspected heart attack sufferers'
Some patients who may be at risk of heart attack or meningitis are having to queue for a trolley in the country's most overcrowded emergency department, a specialist warned yesterday.
Dr Peadar Gilligan, emergency consultant in Beaumont Hospital in Dublin, where 34 patients in the ED were waiting for a bed yesterday, said doctors may not even have a trolley to examine a patient with chest pain or someone who needs a lumbar puncture to confirm they have meningitis.
In some cases doctors must triage a patient with chest pain in a waiting ambulance, he said
"The trolley and chair space can be already occupied by patients we saw yesterday and sometimes the day before. You will often hear of ambulances being delayed in emergency departments because there is no trolley on which to put the patient who has newly arrived. Ambulances are delayed on a daily basis."
Dr Gilligan said as a result, doctors cannot provide the care needed in a timely manner. Patients who should be lying down after getting morphine medications are ending up dizzy because of a lack of trolleys.
"The reason we don't have trolleys is because we don't have beds available within the hospital." He warned that "not having a trolley impacts on the safety of care".
"We know from international studies that overcrowding of emergency departments is associated with increased morbidity and mortality," he continued. "It is estimated as many people die annually from emergency overcrowding in Ireland as from road traffic accidents. It has to be addressed."
He said Beaumont was facing particular challenges because it was also the national centre for specialties such as neurosurgery, while also catering for kidney and cancer patients.
"I estimate our bed base is around 200 below what is needed."
Dr Gilligan insisted the call by the HSE on GPs to send patients with minor injuries to Smithfield clinic would not help the very ill patients who were on trolleys and need a bed.