Denis Naughten has just received confirmation that the charge for people attending hospital injury units across the country is to be cut from €100 to €75 in the coming days on foot of a proposal the Roscommon Galway TD put forward last month.
Denis Naughten proposed in the Dáil that in order to better utilise injury units in hospitals which have access to state-of-the-art diagnostics, and significantly shorter waiting times than emergency departments, there should be a reduced hospital charge.
Following Deputy Naughten’s proposal the Minister for Health Simon Harris has now confirmed he is in the process of drafting a change to the charges which will be implemented within the coming days to encourage patients to consider this as an option for appropriate injuries.
Last month Denis Naughten pointed out: “We need to better utilise our injury units, which can provide for quick diagnosis and discharge back into the community and ensure that people do not have long stays for tests, as is the case in emergency departments.
“Currently, people go directly to accident and emergency departments rather than to injury units and this measure will encourage people within the catchment area of injury units to go there in preference to overcrowded A&Es.
“I believe this change in the charging structure will send a clear message to the public to consider using their local injury unit.
“Up to now patients paid the same fee for presenting to an emergency department as they did to an injury unit in hospitals like Roscommon, which was wrong if we wanted to encourage patients to avoid overcrowding in A&Es.”
Injury Units are for the treatment of broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns that are unlikely to need admission to hospital. Staff in Injury Units perform x-rays, reduce joint dislocations, apply plaster casts and treat wounds by stitches or other means.
The injury units are located at hospitals in Roscommon, Loughlinstown, Dundalk, Smithfield, Monaghan, Ennis, Nenagh, St. John’s Limerick, The Mercy Cork, Mallow, and Bantry.
“These could ease the pressure on some of the most overcrowded emergency departments in the country and I welcome this move by Minister Harris,” concluded Denis Naughten.
Wednesday, 20 November 2019
Denis Naughten (Roscommon-Galway, Independent)
I have three suggestions for the Minister in respect of the issues at accident and emergency departments across the country. First, we need to better utilise our injury units, which can provide for quick diagnosis and discharge back into the community and ensure that people do not have long stays for tests that can be provided there. Currently, people go directly to accident and emergency departments rather than to injury units and an effort needs to be made to encourage people within the catchment area of injury units to go there in preference. If they do present at an injury unit, they should be considered as having been admitted to an accident and emergency department and get credit for when they go there. To send a clear message on the matter, I ask the Minister to make one change, namely, to reduce the charges for people presenting at an injury unit. One pays the same charge for presenting at an injury unit as at an accident and emergency department. There is no incentive there. If the policy is to encourage people to go to injury units, which it should be, we should not charge them the same fees as for going to an accident and emergency department. There are state-of-the-art equipment, diagnostics and even staff on call in many of the injury units, yet the doors are locked at 8 p.m. Surely it would make far sense if the GP out-of-hours service based beside such facilities operated out of them and had access to the diagnostic facilities.
Second, we need to utilise vacant nursing home beds available throughout the country to assist with the discharge of patients from hospital.
Third, we have to lift the embargo on critical appointments. I flagged in the Chamber last week the issue of vacant posts for public health nurses in Ballinasloe and it is welcome that we have made progress and two of the posts will be filled. Nevertheless, two community nursing posts that could assist in the discharge of patients from Portiuncula hospital remain vacant, and it makes more sense to make that investment now.