Monday 21 January 2019

Hospitals' emergency departments like 'war zones', says top doctor

Dr Emily O'Conor
Dr Emily O'Conor
Laura Lynott

Laura Lynott

A leading hospital consultant has warned emergency departments (EDs) are like "war zones" as the trolley crisis worsens.

Dr Emily O'Conor, president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, raised concerns that so-called 'Aussie flu' could be life-threatening to children, with the number of infections expected to rise when schools reopen next week.

Dr O'Conor said EDs resembled "war zones" and seeing patients facing lengthy waits on trolleys was "soul destroying" for medics.

"Staff are exhausted. They're working in appalling conditions - we are keeping people waiting eight hours to see a doctor.

"When you're trying to run an ED, you pick out the sickest patients but we are concerned we're missing someone who's really sick.

"Our primary concern is for patients. None of us want to see patients in congested EDs - it's not pleasant, it's stressful and doesn't encourage people to work in EDs.

"But the ownership of this problem is way beyond the EDs. We need more beds, more doctors and nurses, discharging people, getting them home, social care packages in place to get people out of hospital."

Dr O'Conor appealed for the Government to better resource hospitals, adding it had been "a long Christmas" for staff. "There was no holiday period for many. EDs keep going. They have to," she said.

Dr O'Conor also revealed concerns at the heart of the health service as Aussie flu sweeps the country and schools re-open next week.

"Flu will always hit the paediatric population but the concerning thing about the Australian flu is there were two spikes of this virus in Australia, among the elderly and then children.

"The second spike of deaths in Australia was children aged between four and 16. It killed children in Australia, so we don't know what will happen in Ireland but that is a big concern."

Dr Colm Henry, clinical adviser for HSE hospitals, said Aussie flu had so far affected older people but a B strain of influenza was more likely to affect children. "I don't dismiss the concerns, I share them," Dr Henry said.

"Parents should access information from the HSE website and all vulnerable groups should get vaccinations."

Dr Henry also said he "shared the concerns" about the trolley crisis, but added: "I want to reassure people we are working very hard to reduce this, to stop people waiting on trolleys."

He added that operations hadn't been cancelled due to the trolley crisis and non-emergency procedures had not been scheduled for this time of year due to the expected busy period. Emergency operations were still going ahead, he added.

Irish Independent

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