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LGH emergency department crisis deepens

A recent aerial view of the Letterkenny General Hospital campus with the new A and E unit in the foreground (beside car park). Picture: Declan Doherty

A recent aerial view of the Letterkenny General Hospital campus with the new ED unit in the foreground (beside car park). Picture: Declan Doherty

THE overcrowding at Letterkenny General Hospital is worse today with a reported 31 people on trollys according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).
All day surgery cases and theatre lists have been cancelled for the week ahead as the hospital systems threaten to become overwhelmed by the crisis.

Nationally, the numbers on trolleys and in wards has surpassed 600 for the first time ever.

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Meanwhile Donegal Deputy Pearse Doherty has said that warnings about overcrowding at Letterkenny General Hospital is continuing to fall on deaf ears. Adding that the this situation is nothing new. Deputy Doherty raised the problem of overcrowding with Health Minister Leo Vardakar last October during a Topical Issue Debate.

“I have continuously raised the issue of overcrowding at Letterkenny General Hospital: only last October I decided to raise the matter in the Dáil with the Minister following which he agreed to examine the situation, however what this latest crisis has proven is that nothing has changed,” Deputy Doherty said.

OVercrowding will continue
The Saolta group (formerly west north west hospital group) said that: “As part of the plans in place to deal with the surge in demand in EDs at this time of year, all hospitals have invoked escalation plans which includes opening additional overflow areas, curtailing non-emergency surgery, providing additional diagnostics and strengthening discharge planning. “Hospitals are currently taking these steps, as required, so that patients who need to be admitted to hospital are admitted to a bed as soon as possible.

“Amongst the key factors contributing to the increase in pressure within EDs is the older age profile of patients presenting and the complexity of issues they have. As a result, hospitals are experiencing delays in discharging these patients home or to other appropriate settings.

“In addition, the HSE received an additional allocation of €3m in December to enable the release of 300 additional Fair Deal approvals immediately to allow hospitals begin to address the delayed discharge issue.

“The pressure on Emergency Departments seen in recent weeks is likely to continue in the weeks ahead as the seasonal surge in demand continues. The numbers of patients on trolleys is higher than the same time last year, and it is for this reason that Minister Varadkar recently convened and attended the Emergency Taskforce. This Taskforce brings together representatives from unions (including the INMO and IMO), clinicians and HSE representatives, in order to develop practical responses to the increasing challenges facing our publicly-funded hospitals.

“The HSE and Saolta apologises to patients and their families for any distress caused by the delays experienced in EDs. The HSE and Saolta and each of the local hospitals would encourage patients to contact their GPs in the first instance where they can be directed appropriately to services such as rapid access clinics, day hospital services for older people and acute medical assessment units, as appropriate.”

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