Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Kenneth Fox

The number of patients waiting over 24 hours at emergency departments has nearly trebled in the first five months of 2022.

The HSE has confirmed there were 25,000 people waiting longer than 24 hours for admission via an ED between January and May. Of those, more than 8,000 patients were over 75.

As the Irish Examiner reports, the figures for all patients in the same period in 2021 was 8,865 of whom 2,500 were over 75s.

The increase cannot be blamed on the country coming out of lockdown.

While the opening months of 2021 were under public health restrictions, figures from the Department have shown that emergency department presentations actually remained stable compared to the same months pre-pandemic.

In January 2021, the first month of a five-month lockdown, there were 114,875 presentations, with 23,867 admissions. That is compared to 113,270 presentations and 29,482 admissions in January 2020, before the Covid pandemic struck.

The HSE’s Anne O’Connor said in February that in a one-week period a record number of 28,000 people had presented to EDs.

They said between January 2022 and the end of June 2022 “approximately 719,000 patients have attended Emergency Departments (EDs) in Ireland with over 175,000 patients being admitted to hospital”. This works out at just under 120,000 presentations a month.

“It is also important to note that patients attending EDs are prioritised for treatment based on the severity of their illness and need for emergency care. This means that patients not requiring urgent emergency care may experience long wait times in the ED,” a HSE statement said.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman David Cullinane, to whom the latest figures were released, said they show the crisis in the country’s emergency departments is going “from bad to worse”.

“This is putting real pressure on acute services, leads to a cancellation of elective procedures, and drives up waiting lists. There are already 900,000-plus on acute waiting lists,” Mr Cullinane said. “The number of patients waiting more than 24 hours month-on-month is increasing and is unacceptable.

“We need to increase in-patient bed capacity, but crucially we need to increase the number of recovery beds in the community to speed up discharges.”

Mr Cullinane also said the delivery of community health infrastructure needs to be accelerated.

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