March 9, 2022
Government must take zero-tolerance approach to hospital overcrowding and fix root causes of emergency department dysfunction – David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the government to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to hospital overcrowding following a meeting of the Oireachtas Health Committee with a number of trade unions on the subject.

Teachta Cullinane said that the Minister for Health must take charge of the situation and fix the root causes of emergency department dysfunction.

He added that the Emergency Department Taskforce must be reconvened, and a serious plan put in place to reduce ED wait, and increase skills mix and staffing levels in emergency departments and hospital wards.

Teachta Cullinane said:

“The government must take a zero-tolerance approach to hospital overcrowding.

“This is not a new issue – patients have been suffering the torturous consequences of overcrowding for years.

“The root causes of emergency department dysfunction are low hospital capacity, delayed discharges, poor out-of-hours GP coverage and a lack of alternatives in the community.

“The Minister must ensure that the Emergency Department Taskforce is reconvened, and a serious plan is put in place to reduce ED waits and tackle overcrowding.

“There is a framework for safe staffing and skills mix, which, combined with investment in more beds and training and retaining enough healthcare staff, can increase capacity for hospitals to see and treat more patients more effectively.

“There is a high degree of burnout across the health workforce, and a high level of additional unpaid work – 71% of nurses in Cork University Hospital told the INMO that they have worked additional unpaid hours in the last year.

“There is, without question, a need for more beds and more capacity in diagnostics and surgical theatres, but that is not all.

“There are efficiency reforms that have worked in some hospitals to reduce overcrowding and reduce delays in discharging patients, such as specialist medical wards. All hospitals must act on each other’s successes and failures.

“Responsibility for discharge in lower complexity cases can be given to appropriately qualified non-consultant doctors and senior nurses.

“Above all else, we need to join up community and hospital healthcare. Too often, hospitals are left trying to discharge a patient, but there is no recovery bed available for them. Regional Health Areas will help to streamline this process.

“The long festering problems in primary care and general practice, which are a direct result of not training enough doctors and allied health professionals, need to be dealt with.

“This will take time to fix. That is why government must start now to increase the alternatives to hospitals for minor injuries and boost GP capacity.

“The government’s plans are short-term and fall far short of what is needed. There is no medium term vision and they do not have solutions for overcrowding.

“We need a new zero-tolerance approach to emergency department waits and short-termism.”

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