Doctors’ Ebola concern for Limerick emergency department

Mike Dwane

Reporter:

Mike Dwane

University Hospital Limerick
EMERGENCY doctors have said that hospitals serving the state’s three main airports - including Shannon - are among the least prepared to deal with an Ebola case.

EMERGENCY doctors have said that hospitals serving the state’s three main airports - including Shannon - are among the least prepared to deal with an Ebola case.

Shannon is a designated airport for medical diversions when passengers become sick over the north Atlantic. Such patients are regularly taken to University Hospital Limerick.

Now, the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, representing doctors working in emergency departments (ED), has said it has “serious safety concerns” in relation to the safe management of any Ebola case here. And these concerns are rooted in habitual overcrowding, lax infection control and a reliance on locum staff.

“We know that infectious diseases spread amongst patients and staff in crowded EDs. Such spread has happened with norovirus, TB and most devastatingly with SARS. The association is therefore not reassured by Department of Health or HSE claims of full preparedness given the current crowding situation in most EDs,” a statement from the association reads.

“Particularly significant is the fact that hospitals serving our national airports, namely Beaumont Hospital, University Hospital Limerick and Cork University Hospital, are most at risk as they have particularly high rates of crowding.

“It is internationally recognised that ED crowding with admitted inpatients increases the mortality rates for these and other patients. Put simply, the very immediate and daily reality is that ED crowding is resulting in more deaths and greater morbidity right now than the risk Ebola presents in this country. Ebola will simply add to this reality.”

On Ebola itself, the association is calling on the HSE to introduce mandatory training for frontline staff in the use of personal protective equipment and to identify areas to receive and treat any case away from overcrowded emergency departments.