A&E crisis gone from bad to worse, Costello tells Dail

26 April 2006

by Cllr Joe Costello

The crisis in our hospital A&E wards has gone from bad to worse in the last three years, Labour’s Joe Costello has said. He was speaking in the Dail today on a motion dealing with Accident and Emergency Services. Deputy Costello said: “Three years ago the situation in the A & E of the Mater Hospital had reached such a pass that the Labour Party decided to mount a protest outside the hospital from 1 – 2pm on the occasional Saturday. “It was only then that the full appalling state of affairs became known to us from regularly visiting the A & E and speaking to patients and relatives coming and going. “Consequently we decided to mount the protest on a weekly basis and have done so now for almost three years. “At the time there were 20 – 35 people lying on trolleys at any one time. The A & E Department was short 4 nurses and needed more medical staff. There were 60 nurse vacancies in the hospital. Over 70 beds were occupied by patients who could be catered for in a recovery unit – if there was a recovery unit! “One hundred new beds are desperately needed. The waiting lists for serious operations and treatment was a massive 4,000. “That was the Mater. The same situation was replicated in all the major hospitals throughout the country. Hospital consultants said that there were 3,000 fewer beds than in 1990. So what has changed three years on? The situation is worse. “There are now chairs as well as trolleys in the overcrowded A & E. Indeed a new ‘Hydro Tilt’ chair has been installed in the last few weeks. Clearly the hospital authorities do not expect major changes in the foreseeable future. “The Tanaiste became Minister for Health in September 2004 and immediately launched a ten point plant to eliminate the A & E crisis once and for all. Major improvements were promised within a few months. Her Government’s credibility would depend on her delivery. Now 18 months later, Minister Harney has declared a National Emergency. “Clearly she hasn’t a clue what to do and the ten-point plan is in tatters. “The Labour Party has published a policy document ‘Healthcare – A New Direction: Towards Primary Care’. It spells out a long term strategic approach for delivering community-based health care that has the funds and resources to treat the many patients that clog our A & E Departments and that can acquire the confidence of the patient. “In the short term there is need for urgent action to address the National Emergency: 1. Separation of A & E reception areas is necessary to separate the ill people who are elderly and frail, from the noisy and boisterous who have over-dosed on illegal drugs or those who are drunk and disorderly. 2. Existing wards in hospitals which have been closed for years should be opened and staffed immediately. 3. A formal link should be established between each local authority and the bed management section of the local hospital. Remedial works required to the home of somebody who is in hospital recovering from a serious illness, a stroke or a heart attack, should be able to bypass the usual bureaucracy and be carried out without delay so as to dovetail with the patient’s readiness to return to their community. 4. Enforce strict hygiene standards for all staff and overhaul the system of contract cleaners cleaning the hospital at certain times rather than according to need and eliminate the appalling level of MRSA which vulnerable patients are prone to and which extend patient’s stay in hospital. 5. Sort out the industrial relations procedures which results in virtually no GP service after hours or on weekends on the north side of Dublin. “None of these measures are rocket science. They are simple, logical procedures that don’t cost an arm and a leg, can be introduced quickly and can prevent untold suffering for our old and ill citizens who are at their most fearful and vulnerable.