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Ireland – Use of agency workers puts patients at risk

17 October 2012

Irish hospital emergency departments are relying too much on agency and temporary workers as fewer trainee doctors decide to work in “overcrowded” departments, a group of leading consultants have warned in a letter to the Department of Health, and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The Irish Independent has seen a copy of the letter which claims that patient care is reduced in part due to an “over-reliance” on agency workers.

Important jobs remain unfilled by junior doctors, leaving hospitals in a difficult situation to offer services without having a regular team of staff, the letter states. The consultants, who are all emergency doctors, have expressed their “extreme” concern over the issue to officials.

The doctors claim that more highly trained staff leave Ireland to work abroad as the number of job applicants has also fallen significantly. Experienced doctors are also replaced by agency workers. This could have “major implications for the safety and quality of patient care,” the consultants say.

The letter was signed by Dr Gareth Quin, Dr Una Geary, Dr Mark Doyle and Gerard McCarthy.

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