Wednesday 21 August 2019

GPs fear tide of patients after hospital's warning of serious overcrowding

KUH Hospital Tralee Co Kerry
KUH Hospital Tralee Co Kerry
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

GPs in the southwest fear they will be overwhelmed with patients after University Hospital Kerry (UHK) advised people to not attend except for "genuine" emergencies.

The Emergency Department has experienced significant overcrowding over the last 48 hours due to increased patient attendances.

Members of the public are being asked to attend only in the case of a genuine emergency, as they are advised that a GP or Southdoc out-of-hours services be consulted first.

"We are asking people to think about all their care and treatment options and keep our ED services for the patients who need them most," the hospital said in a statement.

"If members of the public are seriously injured or ill or are worried that your life is at risk the ED will assess and treat you as a priority."

However, according to Dr Gary Stack, a Killarney-based GP, local doctors cannot possibly meet the demand.

"It's very surprising and unfair the hospital has referred its patients to us," he said. "First of all, this was done without consultation and second, we just don't have the capacity to deal with the sheer amount of patients.

"They're basically putting people at risk by telling them to go to a service that's already collapsing," he said.

UHK sent letters out to GPs in the locality yesterday informing them of the "very high" volume of people presenting themselves to its ED.

They advised general practitioners to bear this in mind when dealing with patients in the coming days.

The hospital told the Irish Independent that its staff and management are working to prioritise the discharge of patients as soon as possible where appropriate.

"The management at UHK apologise for any inconvenience caused, but be assured that all clinical staff are working to manage patient flow within the hospital," a spokesperson said.

INMO general secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha said rural hospitals are hit particularly hard as they often have no agency nurses available to them.

"It's very hard to get agency nurses in the midlands, particular in the west," she said.

"In July and August, the population in Kerry can triple especially around Killarney so obviously you're going to have more people presenting themselves to the hospital.

"There's a yearly predictable pattern but it's not being addressed. Everybody knows that GPs can't provide an alternative service because there isn't enough of them available," she said.

Nursing Homes Ireland (NHI) said it is critical that the hospital management in UHK are proactive in their engagement with nursing homes, with a view to alleviating its severe overcrowding problems.

Seventeen private and voluntary nursing homes in Co Kerry have 740 registered beds.

"The implications of rationing of transitional care and Fair Deal funding is bringing significant hardships upon older people who are awaiting discharge from our hospitals," said NHI chief executive Tadhg Daly.

"Beds are available within nursing homes in Kerry and nearby Cork to provide specialist care to people requiring step-down care from University Hospital Kerry."

Irish Independent

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