Warnings of long ED wait times as Flu season yet to peak

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People in Galway are being urged to consider all options before coming to the emergency department as the flu season has yet to peak.

In the past two weeks flu cases have increased by 39%, and COVID-19 is also continuing to circulate at high levels.

The Saolta Group has said emergency departments are facing sustained pressure, which is leading to longer waiting times for less urgent cases.

Prof John O’Donnell, Consultant in Emergency Care at University Hospital Galway stresses that anyone in need of urgent care would be treated as a priority, but is urging the public to consider whether ED was the right pathway for their care needs.

“We face ever-increasing pressures on our health service and in particular on our emergency department. In winter we have an increased number of winter-related illnesses and admissions.”

“Congestion in the emergency department as a result can lead to long waiting times for patients to be seen,” he added.

“When somebody presents to an emergency department, they’re initially triaged, which means that the time-critical cases are seen first”.

“These would include conditions such as chest pain, shortness of breath, stroke, significant injury, [and] significant pain, but this means that other patients may have to wait,” Prof O’Donnell said.

Health services are again reminding people to get their Flu or COVID vaccines if eligible, which will reduce the chance of a serious illness or spreading them further.

Áine McNamara, Director of Public Health with the HSE said, “With the expected peak in flu, it is an extremely busy time in our hospitals and this will result in longer waiting times for those with less serious injuries.”

“If you have an injury that you think may be less serious, take a minute to have a look at your nearest injury unit.”

For people who need medical attention, Prof John O’Donnell reminded the public to consider all available care options, including injury units, their GP, and local pharmacy.