Half of key A&E jobs left unfilled at eight hospitals
EMERGENCY departments in eight hospitals here have more than half of their senior doctor positions unfilled, a survey shows.
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) is warning there exists an "unsafe deficit" of doctors working in A&E units.
Eight hospitals -- two of them in Dublin -- have over 50pc of their middle-grade doctor positions unfilled, according to a survey carried out by the association.
And just 71pc of senior middle-grade or registrar positions are currently filled, leaving 44 positions vacant. The vacancies mean the HSE has had to hire outside temporary agency staff, or locums, to fill these positions.
The eight hospitals with a shortage of over 50pc include Temple Street and Connolly Hospital in Dublin, as well as hospitals in Kildare, Galway, Limerick Mayo, and Donegal.
The IAEM found that three hospitals, Navan, Letterkenny and Naas, have no permanent registrar. It also found that the recent HSE drive to recruit junior doctors from Asia proved successful, but that a serious shortage still exists in terms of more senior posts.
The survey stated: "Whilst recruitment to the more junior Senior House Officer grade (SHO) has been successful, there unfortunately still remains an unsafe deficit within the more senior middle grade or registrar in emergency medicine tier."
John McInerney , consultant in emergency medicine in the Mater Hospital, warned that patients will suffer.
"The special delivery reforms that have been shown to have had some impact throughout the Christmas period and the New Year -- those successes will be lost if we don't have enough staff to run departments 24/7."
The Irish Patients' Association also voiced its concern about the findings.
"These findings are very worrying. We need to consider the collateral damage that is being done to patients and how it must be minimised," said chairman Stephen McMahon.
However Health Minister James Reilly rejected the findings as "misleading".
"There are 140 registrars across our emergency department system -- 99 of those positions are filled by permanent staff, 41 are filled by locums. It would be much preferably to have those locums filled by permanent staff but there are no gaps in the service. It would be wrong to get the impression that there isn't a doctor there of suitable qualification in that post."