Patients who quit A&E are gambling with health
On a typical day in our struggling emergency departments, hundreds will lie on trolleys for hours waiting for a bed.
But being stuck on a trolley is still a lesser risk than that faced by patients who walk out because they cannot put up with the delays and the overcrowding.
They are choosing to gamble with their health, rather than endure agonising delays.
Until now, the focus has been on the sickest patients, who stay the course in the hope of eventually getting to the safety of a ward.
But who are the patients who are quitting? Why would anyone pay €100 for medical help, then leave?
Of course, some are reluctant patients and not all are seriously ill. They may have minor complaints that are not urgent and could be treated by a GP or injuries unit.
But what about the patient with chest pain, who feels so unwell that they decide to go home - only to be readmitted days later with a heart attack?
Despite several documents from the task force set up here to tackle emergency department overcrowding, little or no mention is made of this worrying group.
Unfortunately, the briefing document given to new Health Minister Simon Harris seems bereft of any new ideas on reducing emergency department overcrowding. The tone is decidedly lacklustre - which is not good news for vulnerable patients heading into the darkness.