Half of homeless at A&E ‘leave without being fully treated’

The first homeless liaison nurse at one of the country’s busiest hospitals says that half of the homeless people who attended the emergency department in the first four months of this year left before they received full treatment.

Jessica Kenny is the first person to be appointed to the role of homeless liaison nurse at Dublin’s Mater Hospital and she said there has been “a huge amount of presentations” in the first months of this year.

Speaking after she made a presentation to the Mission Awareness Conference, organised by the Mater Hospital, she said work is now under way to determine all the various reasons why homeless people presenting in ED often left before their treatment was completed.

“It was over 50% who leave before the treatment is completed,” she said, referring to the period of January to April this year.

In addition to the large number of presentations, she said she is also exploring how many of those were individual presentations to the ED and how many were repeat visits by clients.

“I feel like we have made significant progress already,” Ms Kenny said, adding that work will also be undertaken to see the reasons why some clients are not seen after presenting at ED.

She said those who are presenting have “various complaints” and added that she is compiling a register of clients while also working with others in the hospital and outside it to help increase access to treatment.

“A huge problem with homeless people is finding them and tracking them when they have no fixed abode,” she said. “How do they get out-patient or follow-up appointments with no address? That is something I am looking at.”

Her position operates Monday to Friday to coincide with the work of other agencies which work with the homeless population in the capital and Ms Casey said: “The role is to bridge that gap and integrate them into healthcare.”

It is estimated that between 8% to 10% of all presentations in EDs involve people who are homeless and Ms Casey said any reduction to the number who attend but who do not receive completed treatment would be positive.

Other speakers at the conference included Fr Peter McVerry and Fiona O’Reilly, the general manager of the medical charity Safetynet Primary Care, who told delegates: “Beware of the economic argument it’s cheaper to neglect people’s healthcare needs, it doesn’t mean it’s the right.”

Elsewhere, both the Irish Congress of Trade Unions today and the Simon Communities have backed recommendations in a National Economic & Social Council (NESC) report calling for the use of publicly-owned land to build new homes, alongside measures aimed at increasing affordability.

The report said Ireland’s housing system is “speculative, volatile and expensive”.

www.nesc.ie


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