Increasing pressure on Emergency Department at Cavan hospital

Almost 4,000 more patients have presented to Cavan General Hospital’s Emergency Department so far this year, with the Taoiseach admitting the health system is “under pressure”.

Figures released by the RCSI Hospital Group, which runs Cavan General, to local TD Niamh Smyth, show 24,279 people attended the ED between January and the end of August.

That compares with 20,800 over the same period last year. It’s also higher than 2019, the last full year pre-pandemic, when 22,992 people presented between January and August.

Every month, other than July, saw a higher number of patients in the ED than the previous year. January saw 965 more people present, while July saw 282 fewer, compared with 2021.

Management at the hospital has been forced to appeal to members of the public to only present at the hospital if absolutely necessary on at least seven occasions throughout the year.

On dates throughout May, June, July, August and September it issued a message to local GPs and the media in a bid to reduce pressure on services within the hospital.

It comes as the Taoiseach has again said he’s confident the HSE’s Winter Plan will help to reduce pressure on the region’s ailing health services.

Asked by the Celt on his visit to Cavan about pressure on GP services and the local hospital, Micheál Martin said the plan will bring a permanent increase in capacity.

“A lot of the reforms in the winter plan will be embedded more long term and have been since Covid-19 happened, in terms of additional beds, additional capacity but also more enhanced community care.”

He also noted “stronger supports” for the primary care system, including GPs, introduced over recent years.

“There have been stronger supports for primary care also. Much more significantly that would have been the case prior to Covid. That partnership between the HSE and primary care is essential for the future.”

GP groups have highlighted an increasing workload and long hours as among the reasons GP numbers have been falling. A lack of availability of GP appointments has meant some patients seek care in Emergency Departments or out-of-hours services.

The Taoiseach did admit there are problems within the system and new solutions may have to be found.

“Rural GPs are under pressure. The population is growing. We have to be innovative in terms of advanced practitioners, nurse practitioners, different approaches to GP access to diagnostic clinics for example. They have been a great success in terms of getting more diagnostics done out in the community.”

It’s hoped a major new extension to Cavan General Hospital will help to reduce pressure on services by increasing capacity in the Emergency Department.

Design stage

In a separate response to Deputy Niamh Smyth, the HSE said the extension is “in the early stages of design development”.

It “will require a number of stage approvals in line with the Public Spending Code as it progresses”, said Paul de Freine, the HSE’s National Director of Capital Estates.

Planning permission

Planning permission for the three-storey block was granted by Cavan County Council in May. Deputy Smyth says it will bring a major increase in service provision: “This wing once complete will include a new Emergency Department with two resuscitation bays; 10 major treatment bays and six minor treatment bays; three paediatric rooms and three isolation rooms.

“The Endoscopy suite where people will go to avail of scopes and day procedures will include three procedure rooms and two recovery rooms and, while ward accommodation in this wing will include 16 single rooms with en-suite, which will include 2 isolation rooms. As part of this project an overall hospital electrical and communications upgrade will be required.

“This facility is needed urgently for staff and patients. I will be keeping the pressure on this key project for our county.”