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Not appropriate to use EDs as ‘pressure release valve’- report

By David Lynch - 25th Jul 2022

Using Emergency Departments (ED) as a “pressure release valve for the wider system is no longer appropriate”, concludes a new report into the emergency medicine response to Covid-19 in Ireland.

The National Emergency Medicine Programme based at the RCSI published the report entitled ‘2020 – 2021: Years like no other’.

The conclusion of the report noted that, using EDs “as a pressure release valve for the wider system is no longer appropriate and in a pandemic situation puts patient’s health at risk”.

It also found that “improved flow in acute hospitals during the pandemic illustrated that delayed transfers of care and the resulting exit block is not an insoluble problem, and can be fixed where there is a communal effort”.

“Patient flow improved, and many EDs were less crowded as result of all of these changes. Sustaining this flow will need leadership and active support at national, regional and local level, together with changes in behaviour from the public.”

The report found that the changes affecting the flow of patients through hospital EDs made during the pandemic resulted from a collective effort at all levels of the HSE to rapidly adapt as the pandemic unfolded.

The determination to deliver safe healthcare “was relentless” during the five waves of the pandemic.

The report notes that during the pandemic innovations were developed in the areas of ED outreach services and patient redirection/streaming through a navigation hub.

Dr Gerry McCarthy, Clinical Lead of the National Emergency Medicine Programme, said: “Covid-19 brought significant disruption to the way medical care is delivered across all areas of clinical practice”.

“These unprecedented times have challenged us to adapt and review how we deliver care to our patients in EDs.

“Sustaining the improved flow of patients in hospitals is a real challenge as attendances increase again and emergency departments strive to return to their original core purpose.”

The report said that at the beginning of the pandemic, attendance numbers at EDs dropped.

However as the intense period of the pandemic progressed, “physical and mental fatigue” became an issue amongst emergency medicine staff.

Full report here:

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