The emergency department (ED)
Call 999 or 112 immediately if you think you or someone else is:
- having a heart attack
- having a stroke
- seriously ill or injured
- at risk of dying
Every second counts in a medical emergency.
Find your nearest emergency department ED
There are currently 29 EDs in 28 hospitals in Ireland.
Some EDs in Dublin only see adults and some only see children. Outside of Dublin children can go to any ED.
When to go to the ED
Bring someone to the ED if they:
- are feeling unwell and getting sicker, faster
- are sick and cannot keep fluids down
- have not peed in over 12 hours and have no urge to do so
- are not feeling well and become confused and agitated
- are breathless
- are very pale with cold hands and feet
- are dizzy when they sit up or unable to stand
- develop a rash that does not disappear when you press it
Emergency departments (EDs) are busy places. Often you'll have to wait a long time to be seen. The sickest people are seen first.
If you have a less serious condition
Go to an injury unit if you have a limb injury. If you have a condition needing less urgent treatment, phone your GP.
If your GP surgery is closed, and you need urgent GP care, you should call a GP out-of-hours service.
While in the ED:
- wear a face mask - if you cannot wear one for medical reasons, let the staff in the ED now
- social distance while in the ED
- wash your hands
Everyone going into the ED is checked for signs and symptoms of COVID-19 at the front door.
Patients who might have COVID-19 go to a separate section of the ED for assessment and treatment.
What to bring
- your GP's name and address
- a referral letter if your GP has given you one
- any medicine you are taking
- a list of any allergies or medical conditions you might have
- your glasses or hearing aid if you use them
This will help the staff, and may shorten your waiting time.
If you have difficulties with language or speaking, please bring someone with you who can help you communicate. We can arrange an interpreter, but this takes time.
When you arrive at the ED
When you arrive at the ED, register at reception.
The sickest people will be seen first. The ED is not run on a first-come, first-served basis.
When you will be seen depends on:
- how serious your injury or illness is
- how busy it is
If you need special help because of a physical or mental disability, let us know.
We use something called triage to determine who needs to be seen most urgently.
If you phoned 999 or 112 for an ambulance and you have to be taken to hospital, the ambulance team will take you to the most appropriate ED. This may not be the closest hospital.
You will be seen by a triage nurse. The triage nurse is trained to find out what is wrong with you. They will prioritise you based on your condition. But if anything changes or if you begin to feel worse, let them know right away.
Why you may need to wait
EDs are carefully staffed with more doctors and nurses when we know there will be more patients. But if we have a lot of people needing care, we need to ask people to wait.
Bringing a family member or friend
You may take 1 family member or friend into the examination room with you. You cannot bring more than 1 person because of limited space. It is also to protect the privacy and comfort of all patients.
Keep the ED safe
If you are aware of any loud or unwelcome behaviour, let a member of staff know.
Treatment, transfer and discharge
Most people attending an ED can go home after having tests or treatment. Some people need to stay for further tests or specialist care.
Sometimes when a patient needs to be admitted to the hospital for specialist care, there is no bed available on a hospital ward at that time. When this happens, the patient may have to wait in the ED until a bed becomes available.
If this happens, we will continue to care for you in the ED until we can safely hand you over to the ward staff.
If you have to stay in the hospital
You may be admitted to a:
- medical or surgical ward
- specialty unit, such as intensive care or coronary care
- an isolation room, if you have an infection or contagious bug
Even if you have to stay a long time on a trolley waiting for a bed you'll still receive treatment. You will still be able to have diagnostic tests. Your health will continue to be monitored.
We'll make every effort to make you as comfortable as possible.
When you are discharged
Before you leave, ask yourself if you:
- understand your condition and the treatment you have been given
- know the next steps or know what to look out for
- know the details of your follow-up appointment, if you have one
If you're worried or concerned while you are in the ED ask a member of staff for help and advice.