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Urgent and Emergency Care

Emergency Departments

There are currently 29 Emergency Departments (EDs) in Ireland. Some EDs only treat adult patients while others are specialist paediatric centres. Many EDs deliver care to both adult and paediatric patients on the same site.

EDs are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year

Dublin Midlands Group

Ireland East Group

RCSI Hospital Group

 Saolta University Health Care Group

 South/South West Group

UL Hospitals Group

Children's Hospital Group

Advice for patients attending emergency departments 

Just like in previous years, our Emergency Departments (EDs) are seeing more patients attending. Many of these patients have complicated illnesses and complex care-needs. This means that the number of patients who need to be admitted to hospital for treatment and care increases. While this is likely to increase the waiting times in EDs, we can reassure the public that all patients attending an ED will be seen and, as always, the sickest patients and those requiring urgent treatment and care will be prioritised and seen first.

Flu-like illness and other respiratory infections are very common at this time of year. Most are caused by viruses and these illnesses have a greater impact on older people; those who have underlying illnesses such as COPD, diabetes and heart disease or those with compromised immune systems. It is much harder for them to cope with the complications of these illnesses. Many will need GP care and some may be referred into our hospitals for specialist treatment and care.

As we prioritise treatment and care for the sickest patients and those with life threatening illnesses, it means that patients with less serious illnesses and conditions may need to wait longer for their treatment. That is why we are asking people to think about all of their care and treatment options so we can keep our ED services for the patients who need them most. For example, many patients with limb injuries can go to an Injury Unit and others with illnesses needing less urgent treatment can be seen and treated by their GP or referred by their GP to an Assessment Unit the following day. On the other hand if you are seriously injured or ill or are worried that your life is at risk, you can be assured that our EDs are open 24/7, 365 days of the year and will assess and treat you as a priority.

EDs are very busy places. If you or a family member or friend needs to go to the ED for treatment there are some things you can do to help us to help take care of you in the ED.

Remember to bring your GPs name and address along with any referral letter they may have given you for the ED.

It is particularly important that you bring any medications you are taking, as well as a list of any allergies or current medical conditions you might have, as this will help the doctors and nurses to better assess your condition and the treatment you have had to date. It may also shorten your waiting time as staff will know the medications you are taking and will not need to wait to hear back from your GP or pharmacist. Obviously, you may also need to take your medication while you are in the hospital.

Bring any hearing aids and glasses you need and if you have difficulties speaking or with language, please bring someone with you who can help us communicate with you. We can arrange an interpreter if needs be but this will take time to arrange.

Keeping our hands clean reduces the spread of infection. So by keeping your hands clean when you come to or are in the ED, you can help protect us all from infection. Infection control is really important throughout the whole hospital and, unfortunately, infection outbreaks mean greater risks to our patients, especially those more vulnerable to infection. It may also mean that we have to close hospital wards and beds until they are thoroughly deep cleaned to stop the spread of infection. This can take a lot of time depending on the type of bacteria and unfortunately reduces the number of beds available for patients coming in for care. This in turn means longer waiting times before patients can be admitted to hospital.

About 15 out of 20 people attending the ED go home after having tests or treatment in the ED. Part of our job is to make sure we answer your questions and give you clear information while you are in our care. Before you leave, please ask yourself if you understand your condition and the treatment you have been given, whether you know the next steps or know what to look out for. If you have a follow up appointment, do you know the details?

Our staff in the Emergency Department work really hard to make sure our patients receive the best treatment and care. If for any reason you are worried or concerned while you are in the ED please ask our staff for help and advice and help us to help you.

What to do when you are hearing the emergency department is very busy or full

You may not be functioning properly and feel too sick to go to the GP or GP out of hours service. If you do, you need to go to the emergency department. You will be seen even when they are full or very busy.

After check-in at reception you will be seen by a ‘triage’ nurse. They will assess the urgency of your signs and symptoms. If you are not sure, ask the triage nurse if you should go to the GP if the ED is busy.

In the ED, depending on the seriousness of your signs and symptoms, you will be seen as fast as possible. The nurses and doctors will ask you about your symptoms, examine you and they may suggest tests and investigations.

It is not always possible to know the exact cause of an illness. General treatments are given to cover the likely causes while the results of the tests are awaited.

A decision will be made as to whether you can continue your treatment at home or if you need to stay in the hospital.

If you have to stay in the hospital

When a decision has been made to admit you to the hospital, the bed managers will find you the appropriate bed.

This might be in :

  • medical or surgical ward
  • specialty unit such as intensive care or coronary care
  • an isolation room - if you have an infection or carry a resistant bug as part of your usual skin or intestine bugs

Even if you have to stay a long time on a trolley waiting for a bed you will still be receiving treatment. You will still be able to have diagnostic tests and your health will be monitored using the same monitoring and scoring system that is used on the ward.

We are sorry that this is not as comfortable or dignified as you deserve, especially when you are feeling poorly, but this is outside of the control of the hospital. Every effort will be made to try and make you as comfortable as possible.

There is no bed for you when you need it

The hospital system needs to have 25% of its beds empty during the quiet periods. This is typically in summer time. This is so that when there is an increase in illness - which happens every year in winter or if there is an outbreak or a disaster - there are beds available to accommodate all the patients.

We need an additional 1200 beds to be able to do this. These beds need to come with doctors, nurses and health and social care professionals to look after the people in them. Investment in more beds and staff is on-going but will take some time.

This winter will be challenging. We need to try and keep ourselves well for our own personal comfort as well as taking pressure of the system.

They are trying to discharge you but you feel very weak

Hospitals are great when you need them. But the sooner you are back home the sooner you get back to normal. Having said that, a serious illness can leave you feeling very weak. This can make it difficult for you to look after yourself while you get back to full strength. You can be assessed by a physiotherapist and other specialists to see if you need additional support in your home or some rehabilitation.

Being discharged can be a nervous time after being cared for in hospital. Make sure that you are clear about any changes in your medication and know what to expect in terms of your on-going recovery. This includes whether you need to be seen at a follow-up outpatient clinic.

If you are unclear, ask to speak with the nurse, doctor or hospital pharmacist before you go. Talking with your community pharmacist or GP might also be helpful if you are uncertain and would like further information after discharge.

How the Emergency Department Works

Advice when you need to go to the Emergency Department