Threat of reduced A&E hours

A SHORTAGE of junior doctor applications could see Accident & Emergency services at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore reduced or even cut.

A SHORTAGE of junior doctor applications could see Accident & Emergency services at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore reduced or even cut.

President of the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine, Dr Fergal Hickey has claimed that 140 posts could be left unfilled nationwide as the HSE faces a shortfall of 400 junior doctors next month.

The HSE responded by outlining that 'contingency arrangements are being considered at all hospital sites to ensure patient safety is maintained'.

The statement added, "The provision of acute services for the Midlands is based on accessibility, patient safety, clinical standards and quality of services. In the context of the potential shortage of NCHDs in the hospital system as the next NCHD rotation approaches in January 2011, the HSE Dublin Mid-Leinster has been working over the past number of months to address the issue and efforts remain ongoing to ensure that the shortage of junior doctors and any associated impact on services are minimised."

The Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore is one of several A&E's nationwide struggling to fill junior doctor's posts.

Dr Hickey said this shortage will impact on patients. "There are serious shortages in anaesthesia that could stop operating lists and affect intensive care units and the transfer of patients. This will all have a very significant impact on patient care."

New contracts are due to begin on January 10 with applications in parts of the country having dropped by 90 per cent compared to two years ago. According to the HSE, on July 28, approximately 260 of 4,638 junior doctor posts were vacant.

Dr Hickey remarked, ''Where a hospital cannot staff its emergency department, it is inevitable that it will move to limited hours or close altogether unless the recruitment problem is solved. I don't think they are going to recruit enough people between now and January to adequately staff some departments."