A&Es facing closure over shortage of junior doctors
Several hospital emergency departments may have to close or curtail opening hours because of a serious shortage of junior doctor staff, senior medics warned yesterday.
"If emergency departments cannot provide a safe service, they should be closed or have their opening hours restricted to periods when they can provide a safe service," warned Dr James Binchy, spokesman for emergency consultants.
A combination of factors have left emergency departments understaffed this year as junior doctors failed to apply for posts in their usual numbers, opting to go abroad for training and better pay in many cases.
Non-EU doctors are also having to endure more red tape with their visas as a result of regulations from the Department of Justice.
Dr Binchy, of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, said the problem was worsening and the hospitals worst hit were Naas General Hospital; Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe; Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar; Kerry General Hospital, Tralee; and Letterkenny General Hospital.
But he warned: "Almost every emergency department in the country has been unable to recruit its full complement of medical staff.
"Where there are alternative emergency departments in reasonable proximity, it may now be necessary for hospitals that cannot safely staff them to close or limit their opening hours."
The HSE said yesterday that patient safety was of "paramount concern".
"The HSE is working closely with individual hospitals to address their needs in this area. The HSE is putting in place a number of processes to address the issues," said a spokesman.