Busy A&E may close at night over staff shortages
A SHORTAGE of doctors at one of the country's busiest hospitals could cause the closure of its accident and emergency department at nights from next month.
Medics at the Mid-Western Hospital in Limerick have warned that the emergency department may close each night for 12 hours from July 11 unless the staff shortage is urgently addressed.
Consultant Fergal Cummins said the Limerick hospital was "a little bit worse off than the other emergency departments throughout the country".
"Every hospital is short staffed in terms of its emergency medicine complement," he said.
Mr Cummins said by July 11, half of the Limerick staff complement -- junior doctors and non-consultant doctors -- would no longer be working there.
"This has been warned about by the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine up to two years ago," Mr Cummins said.
He said the shortage was caused by a number of factors.
"Medicine and specifically emergency medicine in particular, in this country has become increasingly unattractive as a discipline in which to work. Attractions are better overseas because of better remuneration and better working conditions.
"We are pulling out all the stops on this. What we are trying to do is keep the hospital open. What we are saying is if the current situation continues, from July 11 at 8pm there will not be an emergency medicine service or presence."
"The hospital might well be open, but the specialty of emergency medicine will not be able to provide cover. We will hope to have a service from 8am to 8pm as that is when our busiest influx of patients present," Dr Cummins said.
Labour TD Jan O'Sullivan said it was inconceivable that the Mid-West region would not have a 24-hour accident and emergency service.
Mrs O'Sullivan, who hopes to discuss the crisis with Health Minister James O'Reilly, said she became concerned about the impact of reconfiguration of hospital services in the region following the closure of accident and emergency facilities at St John's Hospital in Limerick and at Ennis and Nenagh hospitals.
She added that the real issue at the Limerick hospital was staffing and said the recruitment moratorium should be broken if needs be.
A Health Service Executive spokesman said: "The public can be assured that the issue is receiving attention at the highest level and we are engaged with all the parties including the medical colleges which oversee the training of junior doctors, the Medical Council, the Department of Health and Children and the Minister for Health."