There is growing concern that the accident and emergency department at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe may have to close during night time hours because of a serious shortage of doctors.
According to the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine many patients could be at risk unless the HSE clarifies which hospitals can maintain a 24-hour emergency department. Spokesperson for IAEM, John McInerney said that a survey carried out by him and his colleagues found that several emergency departments would be short of junior doctors from July 11 onwards as junior doctors rotate posts as part of their training. The emergency departments most likely to be affected include those at Portiuncula Hospital, Roscommon County Hospital, Portlaoise General Hospital, and Letterkenny General Hospital.
The IAEM, which represents consultants in emergency medicine, has blasted the HSE for its ongoing inability to recruit sufficient junior doctors to the country’s emergency departments. According to the IAEM, many emergency departments have had vacancies and difficulties filling their complement of senior house officers and particularly middle grade posts for the past 18 months, and the situation will become substantially worse after July 11 which is the changeover date for junior doctors.
The IAEM further warned that “the loss of medical staff both in the emergency departments and front-line specialities, compounded by worsening emergency department overcrowding, will undoubtedly result in even more prolonged waiting for patients” and that this “will lead to delayed treatment and potential avoidable harm”.
The new board of the HSE are now being called on to adopt immediate rigorous contingency planning to minimise the disruption to national emergency department services caused by staffing shortage.