The number of people attending emergency departments fell sharply at the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland, research has shown.

New ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) figures show that the average number of daily emergency department attendances at the end of March 2020 was approximately half what it was at the beginning of March.

Similar reductions were seen across each region of the country.

The reductions were substantial across all age groups, with particularly high reductions amongst younger age groups.


Decline in very urgent/immediate attendances

There was even a decline in the number of attendances classified as very urgent/immediate.

The fall in these more serious cases was 27%, compared to a 32% decline in less urgent attendances.

The research is based on the most up-to-date emergency department attendance data available from Irish public hospitals up to March 31 2020. The data was provided by the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The researchers said there may be many factors contributing to the decline in attendances.

The timing of the reductions suggests that the public may be concerned about attending health facilities when there is a risk of contracting Covid-19 or fear that they are adding to the pressure on the health service.

The public must be encouraged not to ignore symptoms and attend EDs when they need to

Aoife Brick, ESRI

The ESRI report stated that to help ensure members of the public receive healthcare when they need it, more may need to be done to reassure them that it is safe to contact their GP or attend hospital EDs.

Aoife Brick, research officer at the ESRI, said: “These data suggest that there are people who did not attend the ED following the onset of the Covid-19 outbreak in Ireland when under normal circumstances they would have.

“The public must be encouraged not to ignore symptoms and attend EDs when they need to.”

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and health officials have been calling for the public to contact their GP or the emergency department if they have any symptoms they are concerned about.