Half of busy emergency unit lies idle due to staff shortage
Half of the upgraded emergency department (ED) at a busy hospital is lying idle because of a lack of staff, a leading consultant has warned.
Tallaght Hospital got €5.5m funding from the HSE to upgrade the department, which was completed in June last year.
But Dr James Gray, who has been outspoken on the issue of overcrowding, says a lack of personnel means the facility cannot be used in full.
"Nearly half of our overall new ED is still lying idle because we can't staff it," he said.
"When we had our revamp done, we had to keep going as a service.
"When the new bit was completed, we moved into a portion of that, so the old ED could be revamped.
"Then all of that was completed in June 2015. However, part of that old ED that has been revamped is now lying idle because we don't have the nursing staff for it."
Dr Gray said that there was an eight-bedded area that had been lying idle since June.
"And we have got a rapid assessment and triage area that is lying idle since December 2014, over 12 months, a three-bay area.
"The idea behind a rapid assessment treatment area is that patients come in, they get assessed rapidly in there.
"An initial working diagnosis is made by a senior clinician and all of their investigations are booked at that point, so that by the time they are seen in the ED proper, they have all their investigations hopefully done," he said.
He said that the INMO were in negotiations with the HSE and the hospital management to try and secure nursing and open the extra facility - an eight-bedded area with five cubicles in three rooms.
"Effectively, half of our main area is lying idle," he said.
A spokesman for the hospital acknowledged that recruitment of nurses, both in Ireland and abroad, was still under way with progress on the ED anticipated by April.
He said it had begun a phased opening of its expanded and refurbished ED, which increased the department's floor space by 50pc.
"Phase one opened in 2015 and the full opening is commensurate with an ongoing nursing recruitment campaign, both in Ireland and internationally," he said.
There will be an additional eight cubicles and three isolation cubicles to be completed by the end of April 2016.
The spokesman said that patients were being seen quicker in the emergency department despite a 2pc increase in attendances. "Transfer times to wards for admitted patients have dropped with the opening of additional bed capacity under the HSE winter funding initiative," he added.