Lack of beds in Cork EDs means day-long wait for elderly patients

Clinical lead and consultant in emergency medicine at CUH, Professor Conor Deasy, told The Echo that the amount of people over the age of 75 attending the emergency department in CUH, has increased compared to pre-Covid figures.
Lack of beds in Cork EDs means day-long wait for elderly patients

A CORK consultant in emergency medicine has raised concerns about the increase of people over the age of 75 attending the emergency department (ED) in Cork University Hospital (CUH).

A CORK consultant in emergency medicine has raised concerns about the increase of people over the age of 75 attending the emergency department (ED) in Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Clinical lead and consultant in emergency medicine at CUH, Professor Conor Deasy, told The Echo that the amount of people over the age of 75 attending the emergency department in CUH, has increased compared to pre-Covid figures.

“Our numbers of over-75-year-olds attending the emergency department increased by 14% in March 2022 compared to 2019 pre-Covid,” he said.

Prof Deasy was speaking after figures from the HSE, provided in response to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin health spokesperson David Cullinane, show the average waiting time for admission to an ED last month in CUH for those 75 and over was 28.8 hours and 26.8 hours at the Mercy Hospital. The average waiting time nationally for that age cohort is 13.75 hours.

Prof Deasy said more bed capacity needs to be provided in hospitals and community hospitals to move patients quickly from ED to the comfort and safety of an inpatient ward bed.

“The problem is there is a lack of inpatient beds for older patients in CUH and in the community setting, so older patients get stuck in the ED... for protracted lengths of time,” he added.

Prof Deasy said beds were closed in community hospitals, rehab and long-term care facilities due to infection control concerns during Covid.

“At any given time at CUH over the last five months, we have had circa two wards worth of patients on the delayed transfer of care list.

“These are patients who no longer need to be at CUH and should be treated in step down and rehab facilities off-site,” he explained.

Prof Deasy said CUH also built an area in the ED during Covid that is “age attuned”.

“The cubicles are bigger, and the space is designed to improve their safety... The area is staffed more intensively than other parts of the ED.”

“CUH has taken on the governance of St Finbarr’s Hospital and is working towards providing governance of other off-site transitional care... beds,” he said.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire has called on the Minister for Health to intervene.

Sinn Fein TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire
Sinn Fein TD Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire

“It is shocking, that elderly patients are waiting over 24 hours in EDs in Cork. These are some of the most vulnerable and elderly patients, potentially with mobility and other issues.

“The staff are doing the best they can, but this is an unacceptable situation. They need Government action and support,” he added.

A spokesperson for the South/South West Hospital Group said: “Clinical teams have described increased attendance in the patients aged greater than 75 years. Another factor influencing the movement of patients through the Emergency Department is the availability of inpatient beds within the hospitals for admissions, as well as the availability of beds in community setting when the acute episode of care has been completed.

“In Cork City bed capacity issues in particular are challenging, but locally both hospital and community services are working in an integrated approach to improve the flow of patients across the system, paramount to same is the safe discharge of patients who have ongoing care needs.”

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