The closure of Roscommon A&E is having a significant impact on overcrowding in the emergency department of Mullingar Hospital, according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
The INMO’s vice president Geraldine Talty says the HSE does not seem to realise that the closure of one hospital’s accident and emergency department will have a knock-on effect on another.
“Staff in Mullingar have noticed that the catchment area seems to have increased - patients are coming to Mullingar who have Roscommon addresses. If the A&E was open in Roscommon, they would be able to go there.”
Roscommon Hospital’s A&E department closed in July 2011.
Ms Talty’s comments come after the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar reported particularly high numbers of patients on trolleys this week. According to the INMO’s daily Trolley and Ward Watch, there were 32 patients waiting on trolleys to be admitted yesterday (Thursday ). The numbers have remained high all week, with 29 on Monday, 32 on Tuesday, and 27 on Wednesday.
Ambulances have been diverted from the hospital in recent days, and elected surgeries cancelled due to overcrowding.
Other factors impacting on overcrowding in local A&Es, according to Ms Talty, include an ageing population, reduced numbers of public health nurses, and reduced primary care services.
“When older people are left without services in the community, they get sicker at home, so when they come into hospital they do tend to acquire admission. There is also the fact that up to a few years ago elective surgeries would always be cancelled if there were patients in A&E, but this is no longer the case.”
A spokesperson for the HSE admitted yesterday that Mullingar Hospital is “experiencing a significant period of high activity for the summer season”.
“Whilst waits in the emergency department [are] regrettable, steps are being taken to cope with the additional demand for services and to prioritise care for those who need it most.”
However, where possible, the HSE is asking that patients present to their GP and primary care centre or GP out of hours service, as an alternative to attending their local emergency department in the first instance.
“The hospital regrets the inconvenience that waiting for admission can cause for patients. We wish to assure patients that staff are endeavouring to minimise the inconvenience that may arise.”