16 hour wait for a doctor: Cork emergency department 'very busy' in recent weeks

16 hour wait for a doctor: Cork emergency department 'very busy' in recent weeks

A CONSULTANT working in the emergency department at Cork University Hospital (CUH) has said that some patients have experienced “exceptional wait times” with some waiting 16 hours to be seen by a doctor.

A CONSULTANT working in the emergency department at Cork University Hospital (CUH) has said that some patients have experienced “exceptional wait times” with some waiting 16 hours to be seen by a doctor.

Consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH Professor Conor Deasy said that while attendance at the ED has decreased from last week, that “it remains very busy”.

He said that last week saw some patients in the lower triage categories, those who are less severely unwell, waiting 16 hours to be seen by a doctor.

“Some of this work included patients who would ordinarily have attended general practice,” he said.

Speaking to The Echo, Professor Deasy said that it is “inevitable that the numbers of patients attending the emergency department will increase considerably in the coming days”.

“The ease of spread of the omicron Covid variant during family and friends gatherings will inevitably cause vulnerable people to become very unwell, requiring emergency treatments,” he said.

“Private hospitals and GP practices will be closed or working reduced hours over the bank holidays so people will not have these services as options and will end up needing to come to the public emergency departments,” Prof Deasy continued.

“Inevitably, hospital and other frontline staff will themselves contract Covid or be close contacts, requiring them to stay at home from work. The combination of increased work with less staff available to do the work is very concerning.

“It is vital that people stay safe – avoid unnecessary risks, be these related to Covid and reducing your contacts or getting up on a ladder to fix Christmas lights,” he said.

Prof Deasy said staff are “under intense pressure” and doing their level best, despite being exhausted.

“The difficulties associated with delivering emergency care are not of the staff’s or hospital’s making – there are no magic cures here - but spring will come, Covid will abate and we will all get on with things. The trick is to stay out of trouble in the meantime and follow the public health advice,” he said.

CUH Emergency Department Professor Conor Deasy, Clinical Lead in Emergency Medicine at CUH. Picture: Jim Coughlan.
CUH Emergency Department Professor Conor Deasy, Clinical Lead in Emergency Medicine at CUH. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

His advice to those with non-urgent illnesses and injuries is to consider whether they can wait.

“Check the availability of your GP and out-of-hours GP services, but be aware that they too are intensely busy. Your local pharmacist can also be a rock of sense.

“Remember, the Local Injury Units at St Mary’s Gurranabraher, Mallow and Bantry may be able to help for injuries such as broken bones or wounds requiring stitches.

“If you end up needing to come to the emergency department, be aware and prepared for long waits if your condition does not require emergency intervention to save your life or prevent further deterioration such that your life could be in danger,” he said.

Speaking during a HSE briefing on Wednesday afternoon, Chief Operations Officer of the HSE Ann O’Connor said up to last weekend, nearly 25,000 people attended emergency departments across the country, up 2.9% on the previous week, up 9.1% on the same week last year, but down 7.6% on the same time in 2019.

In terms of admissions, just under 7,000 people were admitted from emergency departments last week, up 0.5% on the previous week, nearly 7% up on the same week last year and 10.8% on the same week in 2019.

CEO of the HSE Paul Reid said that while we are heading into a period where there are a “very high number of Covid patients already in hospital which has a high impact”, that hospitals are still there for those who need urgent care, but added that “they will be extremely busy and there will be delayed times over the Christmas and New Year period”.

Mr Reid said that we are entering January, 2022, “on a much higher level of demand on our resources, on our healthcare all across the board,” compared to January this year.

“This day last year, there were 239 Covid positive patients in hospital and 25 in ICU. Today, we’ve 431, almost twice the number of Covid positive patients, in hospital and 102 in ICU, nearly five times the number of this time last year,” he said.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more