Additional pressure on UHG A&E because patients are coming from far and wide, says senator

Sen Fidelma Healy-Eames.

Sen Fidelma Healy-Eames.

Additional pressure is being put on University Hospital Galway’s already overburdened emergency department because the facility is increasingly catering for patients from a wider geographical area.

Independent senator Fidelma Healy Eames said it now common for the regional hospital to accept patients from “as far away as Tullamore and Athlone”.

“This is despite there being hospitals closer to these patients,” she said. “All this is adding to the workload in Galway.”

The Oranmore politician’s comments come as nurses at UHG’s ED prepare for industrial action early next month. They say their action, which begins on Tuesday, aims to highlight the twin issues of inadequate bed capacity and patients being deprived of “timely care with dignity” at the west’s biggest hospital.

Senator Healy Eames went on to urge Minister for Health Leo Varadkar to define the boundaries of the new Saolta University Healthcare Group [which covers all acute hospitals in the west/northwest].

Minister Varadkar confirmed to Senator Healy Eames during a Seanad debate recently that he has sought funding for UHG’s emergency department.

“We had a Seanad debate on the 2015 HSE service plan with the Minister for Health. In my contribution to that debate I pointed out the unacceptable conditions at GUH’s Accident & Emergency department.”

She told the Fine Gael minister that it was originally built to cater for 50,000 people but is now serving a population of 250,000 in the city and county.

“It is also serving the wider region, given GUH’s centre of excellence status and is creaking under the strain. At the end of the debate I was delighted to hear the Minister say that he has sought funding for GUH’s A&E in the next capital envelope. Capital investment in a fit for purpose A&E is urgently needed for the sake of patients and overworked staff.”

She outlined that the facility deals with an average of 200 to 220 patients a day. “The hospital neither has enough space nor staff to cope with the huge demand leading to patients sometimes leaving without being seen, only to return later.

“The waiting times are unacceptable. It takes an average of two hours to be seen by a triage nurse and an average eight to 10 hours wait to see a doctor is not unusual. One nurse spoke to me about her concern for older patients on trolleys for 24 to 36 hours over the Christmas and New Year period with no one to speak to them or for them.”

Senator Healy Eames said it was imperative that the nursing positions approved last June be filled immediately.

“Thirty staff were approved for appointment through the national recruitment service but only nine of those have been appointed due to bureacratic hold-ups. We are losing senior staff to private settings and to public health and are losing general practitioners due to too much stress.

“Good practice I feel should be emulated as is currently happening in GUH in the case of advance nurse practitioners. They deal with minor injuries and are in a position to treat and discharge patients within two hours. This is good practice. Similar solutions need to be sought at every level in A&E to give a better health service to patients and to provide more relief to medical staff.”

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