'Over-reliance' on agency staff hitting hospital emergency care
PATIENT care is being diminished by over-reliance on agency and temporary staff in hospital emergency departments, leading consultants have warned.
Trainee doctors are increasingly turning away from working in overcrowded emergency departments, leaving critical vacancies unfilled.
The result is that emergency departments are struggling to provide a service without the benefit of having a regular team of well-trained junior doctors.
"Extreme concern" is outlined in a letter sent to the Secretary General of the Department of Health, Ambrose McLoughlin, and copied to Health Service Executive head Tony O' Brien.
The letter, seen by the Irish Independent, was signed by consultants Dr Gareth Quin, Dr Una Geary, Dr Mark Doyle and Gerard McCarthy who are all emergency doctors.
The doctors said:
• Highly trained doctors are going abroad rather than working in an Irish hospital emergency department.
• The number of applicants for posts has fallen fourfold.
• In the US, Canada and Australia, emergency medicine is a highly sought-after career -- the opposite is true in Ireland.
• The cut in entry salaries will drive more doctors to emigrate.
• Emergency doctors have no private practice.
The specialists said the inability to get experienced doctors to work in emergency departments could lead to the collapse of the service in one or more hospitals with "major implications for the safety and quality of patient care".
This has happened in Leicester in the UK where three consultants resigned and the junior doctors also left.
There were 230 patients on trolleys nationwide yesterday with the Mater and Beaumont in Dublin, as well as Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda and Limerick Regional particularly badly overcrowded.
The letter said staffing levels in emergency departments were so low that the 24/7 rostering "will never be achieved".