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CUH consultant warns: 'Death toll from A&E overcrowding is more than 300 a year' 

A CONSULTANT in emergency medicine at Cork University Hospital says the death toll from overcrowding in Irish hospitals is more than 300 a year.

Dr Conor Deasy was responding to new figures that revealed 834 people were waiting on trolleys at CUH last month, the worst June on record.

Using international figures on the impact of overcrowding in A&Es, Dr Deasy said: “We can say that the death toll due to overcrowding in emergency departments in Ireland is about 300 excess deaths per year."

Dr Conor Deasy, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Cork University Hospital (CUH)
Dr Conor Deasy, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Cork University Hospital (CUH)

He directly appealed to Cork's political leaders to intervene, saying: “Our Tánaiste Simon Coveney and the leader of the opposition Michael Martin need to step in and represent their constituents by increasing bed capacity in the system here.

“They need to provide the electorate with evidence that politicians, the Department of Health, and HSE are not just fiddling while Rome burns. Testimony at election time will be from the corridors of our emergency departments (EDs).”

Dr Deasy said the overcrowding is made worse by the “dire shortage” of inpatient acute beds compared to other countries.

“Staff suffer moral injury in seeing frail elderly on trolleys on our ED corridors every shift,” he said. Staff are working heroically and patients recognise this.”

He said the lack of community services meant people were often staying at CUH when their treatment was finished.

“The acute hospitals bed capacity is being used often for patients who do not require the services of an acute hospital,” explained Dr Deasy.

“But because of a lack of step down beds — community services, nursing homes — the acute hospital ends up in a situation where, like at CUH, 10% of patients use 54% of bed capacity.

“A significant proportion of these patients do not need to be cared for at CUH,” he added. “This blockage in getting people out of the hospital means the emergency department corridor is full with patients who need admission but can’t get into the hospital ward.”

June 25 saw 482 patients on trolleys nationwide, the highest total for any day in June since records began, and 49% higher than the same day in 2018.

Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said that nurses and midwives are informing the union there is no longer a summer respite when it comes to overcrowding.

“Summer 2019 is as bad as winter was five years ago,” she explained.

“Under-staffing is driving year-round unsafe conditions.

“The government and HSE need to get a handle on this problem,” she added.