SERIOUSLY ill patients are being "lost" in the emergency department of one of the country's busiest hospitals. Just one nurse is tasked with keeping track of the whereabouts of patients at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin.
A confidential audit of the overcrowded conditions has shown that the location of patients in A&E can "constantly change, which means no one clearly knows where individual patients are".
The report has described the chaotic situation as a "significant risk to patients".
It found "there was no clear system of monitoring the waiting times for patients".
The tracking system was based on the area where their chair or trolley was placed, instead of the amount of time the patient had been waiting for treatment.
"Consequently there was no easy way to determine who had been waiting for more than six hours, where they were waiting or what point they had reached," the report added.
Patients could be left on a trolley or chair for up to two days and were often kept "in the corridor or annex" because of overcrowding "without privacy, often packed close together and without room to be adequately assessed".
The audit revealed that patients routinely wait up to 40 minutes to be triaged, while category orange patients, who need to be seen most urgently and should be assessed within 30 minutes, often wait hours.
Less urgent category yellow patients can wait for as long as 14 hours to be seen by a doctor.
The audit by the special delivery unit of the Department of Health was carried out in June last year.
On the day of the audit at 8am there were 60 patients in the emergency department, 40 of them were awaiting admission and 20 were waiting to be seen by an emergency doctor or speciality team.