Cork University Hospital urges GPs to cover A&E shifts in a 'desperate attempt to plug a hole'

Cork University Hospital urges GPs to cover A&E shifts in a 'desperate attempt to plug a hole'
Patients on trolleys at Cork University Hospital.

CORK University Hospital has written to GPs across the city urging them to sign up for shifts in the A&E — a move that has been described as a desperate attempt to plug a hole in the services.

CUH management sent out an email in recent days seeking GPs to staff the emergency department for weekly eight- hour sessions.

CUH said it is committed to developing such initiatives as an opportunity to enhance the professional relationship between general practice and the hospital.

However, a Cork GP has hit out at the attempt to remove resources from general practice, comparing it to “re-arranging deck furniture on the Titanic as it sank”.

Dr Padraig McGarry, president of the Irish Medical Organisation, said it was like “robbing Peter to pay Paul”.

He said it highlights CUH’s inability to attract appropriately trained emergency medicine specialists to the A&E.

Dr McGarry said: “This appears to be a desperate attempt to plug a hole because the hospital doesn’t appear to be able to recruit appropriate levels of expertise to carry out this function.

“This means they’re taking a GP out of the primary care setting where general practice is already under severe pressure and strain, and it’s only going to make the situation worse there,” he added.

“It really is robbing Peter to pay Paul because it’s taking a GP out of the community and placing them in a completely different environment. 

"Then other GPs are referring patients to the ED with the expectation that they’ll receive the expertise of an ED specialist but, as a result of these ad-hoc recruitments, that’s not always the case.

“It is a concern that this is happening because it reflects the piecemeal approach that the HSE is taking towards filling vacant posts all over the country.”

Dr McGarry said if the HSE and hospitals were able to attract appropriately-trained consultants, there would be no need for such a recruitment campaign, especially one which is impacting another health service area.

“This goes back to the fact that since 2012, new entrant consultants into the hospital system were given an additional cut to their salaries,” he added.

“Posts which were once hugely sought after, almost gold dust, are now deemed completely unattractive as a result of this cut. There are over 570 vacant consultant posts and that is leading to huge gaps in the health service.”

A spokesperson for Cork University Hospital said:

“CUH has 6 allocated 8 hour sessions per week (3 in General ED and 3 in Paediatric ED) in the Emergency Department that are filled by General Practitioners, These six sessions are in addition to our Consultant Staff complement and are there to provide additional support to the Emergency Department. The Hospital currently has one session that is vacant and are circulating G.Ps. in the region with a view to identifying those who may have a particular interest in Emergency Medicine.”

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