Road crash survivors 'not getting proper treatment'
RSA conference hears hospitals lack adequate facilities to look after patients
VICTIMS of road traffic collisions are not getting adequate medical treatment because of badly equipped emergency departments in hospitals and a lack of specialist staff.
Two medical experts told a road safety conference yesterday that there was a shortage of specialist beds for treating thousands of victims every year, and a lack of doctors trained in emergency medicine.
Ireland has just one-sixth of the number of beds needed to help patients recover, said Dr Aine Carroll from the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Dublin.
She told the Road Safety Authority (RSA) annual conference in Dublin Castle that not one hospital in the State had 'trauma one' status -- where injuries including head and spinal damage could be treated in the one facility -- and there was a lack of specialist doctors.
"We do not have any hospitals that meet the status of a trauma one centre, we do not have any trauma networks, so the important thing about getting people to the right services at the right time is not set up," she said.
"Access to rehabilitation services are practically non-existent. For a country our size, we should have 30 trauma consultants -- we have six. We have 46 inpatient beds, we should have in excess of 300.
"From a government strategy and human point of view, we need to start investing properly and ensuring the survivors of trauma get the treatment they need."
In 2009, the last year for which figures are available, 238 people were killed on Irish roads and 9,742 people injured. Of these, 640 were 'seriously' injured, requiring hospital care.
Fergal Hickey, a consultant and president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, said that too many victims were being taken to the wrong hospitals and that the public would have to accept major changes in how hospitals were run.
"The practice of taking patients to the nearest hospital needs to change. We have too many emergency departments, and some are not worthy of the name.
"There's no single hospital that can cope with a head and spinal injury. We really need to sort that out," he added.
Dr Howard Johnson, a specialist in the HSE Health Intelligence Unit, said the patterns where accidents occurred remained the same.
"The crashes that occur occur in the same counties as five years ago, the same times of day, the same days of the week, and the age group has not changed, classically male and in their teens or early 20s," Dr Johnson said.
The conference also heard that gardai would be required to carry out mandatory breath testing at all collisions from next Wednesday after new laws were enacted by Transport Minister Leo Varadkar.