Retired consultant hits out at emergency department plans

RETIRED Consultant Peter O’Rourke this week took issue with the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly’s announcement that four new ED Consultants for Letterkenny University Hospital would ease pressure on an already struggling system.

Announcing that commencement of recruitment would begin for the Emergency Department consultants, Mr O’Rourke said the measure will not solve the current problems at the hospital and described it “as a bad joke”.

Speaking to the Donegal News this week Mr O’Rourke pointed out that people do not realise that consultants in EDs cannot admit patients and they do not work around the clock.


“Claiming that the appointment of ED consultants will help with the bed crisis is a bad joke. It won’t make any difference. What is needed is beds, expanded day services and expanded diagnostics.

“It is only acute level one trauma centres that ED consultants work 24/7. Here in LUH they work from 9am to 5 pm and are on call from home after that and at weekends. Having another ED consultant adds nothing to the patients. The solution is getting patients out of the ED.” Mr O’Rourke said.

He added that the only thing that will solve the problems is a combination of beds, diagnostics working more than office hours and more radiologists to extend the diagnostics availability to 24/7 or at least to 8 pm in the evenings.

He stressed that work practices need to change pointing out that LUH’s one MRI scanner works from just 9 am until 5 pm Monday to Friday.

It does not work at night or at weekends. X-ray and cardiac investigations need to be much more frequently available’.

“If someone urgently needs an MRI scan they will be transferred to another hospital for it. I am happy to be retired,” he added.

Saolta hospital group CEO, Tony Canavan acknowledged earlier this week; “I think we will struggle to fill those posts between now and the end of the year but none the less we will be proceeding as quickly as we can and maybe even get locum cover in for some of those posts,” said Mr Canavan.


“In order to move patients through the department quickly you need to have senior clinical decision makers, consultants on site working as part of a team to make those decisions.

“We have really good consultants in our emergency department in Letterkenny right now but what we would like to do is to extend the hours of working. If we can extend the days or the number of days that we have those senior consultants on the floor in the emergency department I think it will improve decision making in the department.”

Mr Canavan said that staff will also be recruited to maximise community support services including community nursing service and chronic disease hub supports in order to avoid more hospital admissions.

He said the HSE also plans to recruit a GP Liaison Nurse to support provision of the right care in the right place.

The plan also sets out for an enhanced minor injuries service in the emergency department at LUH, as well as improved GP access to diagnostics and out-of-hours (OOH) supports.

The joint winter plan incorporates LUH and Community Healthcare services in Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo (CH CDLMS).

Dermot Monaghan, Chief Officer, Community Healthcare Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan, Sligo stated “ CH CDLMS will continue to provide supports, through available national funds to support admission avoidance including Community Intervention Teams (CIT), Home

Support, Aids and Appliances, GP Access to Diagnostics and GP Out of Hours (OOHs).

“Investment has been received for the recruitment a GP Liaison Nurse to facilitate admission avoidance. These measures will ensure the continued development of community services and the growth in care to people at home or in community-based HSE facilities so they don’t have to be admitted to hospital unless they really need to be”.

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