TD says minor injuries unit would curtail A&E delays

Overcrowding and hours of delays facing people seeking treatment at the Emergency Department in UHG are the result of effective discrimination against the people of Galway.

That’s the claim this week from Independent TD Noel Grealish, who said that Galway was the only city in the country without a dedicated unit to treat minor injuries — where people can be seen, treated and discharged within a single hour.

“Meanwhile, we have more than 62,000 sick or injured people a year crowding into the only option open to them, the Emergency Department at UHG,” he said.

“Figures released to me by the HSE show that patients with a minor injury faced a wait of five hours and 35 minutes on average from registration to discharge in first four months of this year — and many thousands have to wait many more hours than that,” he added.

The Galway West TD pointed out that there were eleven minor injury units dotted around the country, including one each in the cities of Dublin, Limerick and Cork — with another two of them in Cork County.

“It makes perfect sense that Galway should also have such a unit, which treat broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns that are unlikely to need admission to hospital.

“We have the perfect location in Merlin Park Hospital and it would not take an huge amount of money or time to set up.

“The difference it would make to the Emergency Department at UHG would be enormous . . . I recently visited the injury unit in Roscommon, where it’s taking an average of just 55 minutes from the time a patient comes in the door until they leave, having been treated,” he said.

Deputy Grealish said that even if a planned new emergency department for the Galway hospital was completed on schedule by 2023, that still meant several years of putting up with the present situation.

“In reality it will probably be several years more before that new department is built, and there has been a lot of talk recently also about building a whole new hospital in Merlin Park, but that’s way, way into the future too.

“We’ve had confirmation from the INMO that, between January and the end of June, there were 3,800 patients on trolleys or chairs at UHG, up nine per cent on the same period last year . . . these numbers are constantly increasing and I fear that come the winter we will have a real crisis on our hands,” he added.

He said that UHG fell well below the national average in the time it takes for people to be seen and discharged or admitted. “Last year, more than 15,000 people spent more than nine hours in the Emergency Department, and almost 3,500 of them were there more than 24 hours.

“That just can’t go on. We need a minor injuries unit, based in Merlin Park, to handle the smaller complaints — after all, more than two-thirds of those who go to the A&E are subsequently discharged and go home. Even the Taoiseach has agreed with me that it’s a good idea, but he hasn’t done anything about it.

“You could say Galway is being discriminated against in this regard as it’s the only city without one, when such a unit could make a huge contribution to reducing the overcrowding problems at UHG,” added Deputy Grealish.

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