A new report by HIQA has found Ireland's health system is under 'unprecedented strain'.
Inspections of four emergency departments including Sligo, found the number of patients presenting to EDs is 'significantly higher' than in previous years.
An unannounced inspection was carried out at the Northwest facility by the Health Information and Quality Authority on 20th September 2022. Sligo University Hospital is one of the busier emergency departments in the country with 40,058 attendances in 2021, approximately 110 attendances per day.
Between January and August 2022, the emergency department had 28,919 attendees, a 10% rise on the same period in 2021. The inspection was carried out to determine the hospital's level of compliance with standards from the National Standards for Safer Better Healthcare.
On the day of inspection the waiting time from triage to medical review ranged from 5 minutes to 12 hours and 4 minutes with an average of 4 hours 14 minutes. Meanwhile, patients wait times in the ED for an inpatient bed following decision to admit ranged from 7 hours 15 minutes to 66 hours and 4 minutes.
Staff were observed to be kind, caring and respectful towards patients. Staff were respectful and considerate in their interactions with each other. The staff in the emergency department who spoke to inspectors were committed and constantly striving to provide the best experience to the patients who attended the ED in what was a very challenging environment.
However, despite staff efforts, the environment in which care was provided to patients in the emergency department on the day of inspection did not promote dignity, privacy and confidentiality for the patients in the emergency department. It was found to be non-compliant in this area.
HIQA found that the emergency department had a number of pathways in place to enhance patient flow through the department however these systems were not effective in meeting the competing demands of increasing numbers of patients seeking emergency services,
Responding to the four ED reports, HIQA's Director of Healthcare, Sean Egan outlined on the Joe Finnegan show the reasons for overcrowding.
''The key issues that are affecting the overcrowding is insufficient measures from our perspective to support patient flow and inadequate bed capacity within our health service. In terms of the out of hours Doctor service, limited access to community services or other alternative pathways, and increased numbers of short staffing we've seen in our health services that we've inspected.''