A CORK consultant in emergency medicine has raised concerns about the potential impacts of ‘offload’ delays when bringing patients from ambulances into the hospital.
Clinical Lead and Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Cork University Hospital (CUH), Professor Conor Deasy, described how attendances at the Emergency Department at CUH have increased significantly.
Attendances were up 35% in January and February 2022, compared to 2021 and 2019.
There were 39 patients in the ED awaiting admission to an inpatient hospital bed on Wednesday, according to the HSE’s TrolleyGAR figures.
The Delayed Transfer Of Care (DTOC) patients waiting for a community hospital, nursing home, or home care package, on the same day was 67.
Prof Deasy said the high attendances are leading to delays for ambulances.
“This is leading to offload delays for ambulances because there is no space to offload them into, and this means that ambulances are not then free to attend 112/999 calls,” he said.
A spokesperson for the HSE said that health services, including the National Ambulance Service (NAS) continue to experience “a surge in demand for services”.
“In our current operating context, demand continues to exceed available resources, hence all 112/999 calls are clinically triaged and prioritised to ensure that those patients with life-threatening injuries or conditions receive the fastest response possible.
“During busy periods, some calls will regrettably wait longer for a response while we respond to the sickest patients first.
“Our staff continue to work incredibly hard trying to deliver services,” the spokesperson said.
They said that the demands experienced by NAS are also being experienced by colleagues in emergency departments and that these pressures “can lead to delayed ambulance turnarounds, which is why our managers work very closely with their acute hospital counterparts so that we can get ambulances released as quickly as possible so they can respond to our patients”.
“When a third party caller makes a 112/999 call and they are not with the patient, it can be challenging to confirm accurate details including the exact location of the patient and how to access their location.
“112/999 calls are clinically triaged and prioritised based on all available information to ensure that those patients with life threatening injuries or conditions receive the fastest response possible,” the spokesperson said.