Fees reduced to help take pressure off overcrowded A&E departments
Denis Naughten has urged the public to consider using local injury units – where they can be treated within an hour – rather than waiting in overcrowded A&E departments.
“Patients should also ask GPs if they can have tests or x-rays in the smaller hospitals rather than spending hours in emergency departments waiting to see a doctor before accessing x-rays or scans,” said Denis Naughten.
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.
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”.
“The situation in emergency departments is set to get worse this coming week with the traditional post Christmas spike along with the significant number of hospital admissions due to the flu”
“Following a proposal I made in November, Minister Simon Harris reduced the fee for access to an injury unit last week by €25 to €75 where someone has not been referred by their GP,” explained Denis Naughten.
“Currently, people go directly to accident and emergency departments rather than to injury units and I hope this measure will encourage people within the catchment area of injury units to go there in preference to overcrowded A&Es.
“Many injury units in hospitals like Roscommon have access to state-of-the-art diagnostics, in many cases the tests are read by the same consultants in the busier hospitals but significantly these units have much shorter waiting times than emergency departments.
“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 are serious about encouraging patients to avoid overcrowding in A&Es.
“I made this proposal as a measure to help ease the pressure on staff in some of the most overcrowded emergency departments in the country and I welcome this move by Minister Harris,” concluded Denis Naughten.
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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.