However, with 196 people spending yesterday on hospital trolleys, the Fine Gael spokesperson on health Dr Liam Twomey criticised as “very serious” the delay in delivering the report.
“If this report had been on the minister’s desk earlier it could have helped put in place plans to relieve the pressure on A&Es,” Dr Twomey claimed.
The report by Comhairle na nOspidéal, a government body with responsibility for regulating appointments of consultant medical staff, will recommend investment in acute medical assessment units (MAUs) as “a good way forward” in the on-going battle to deliver emergency care in hospitals.
“If Comhairle na nOspidéal are serious about reducing the problems in A&Es they would have fast-tracked MAUs, as the efficiency of the units has been known for some time,” Dr Twomey added.
Comhairle na nOspidéal confirmed its board had formally adopted a sub-committee report on MAUs and would circulate the findings to the Department of Health and health boards within two weeks.
The report is expected to recommend how such units could be developed, organised, staffed and integrated within the acute hospital system.
“It is supportive of these units, it thinks they are a good way forward,” Mary Jo Biggs from the executive of Comhairle na nOspidéal commented.
A Department of Health spokesperson said it awaited publication of the report and added: “The department is aware of the benefits of MAUs in the context of delivering emergency care to medical (as distinct from surgical) patients.”
MAUs have had considerable success in eradicating waiting times for patients at peak times in St Luke’s hospital in Kilkenny, Waterford Regional Hospital, St James hospital, Sligo and Wexford. In these hospitals, only patients with a trauma injury are admitted to A&E, while others are directed to other units, including the MAU.
Meanwhile, the doctor in charge of the MAU at St Luke’s hospital has blamed the disenfranchment of GPs in Dublin as one of the reasons for the overcrowding of A&Es.
Dr Garry Courtney said the successful streamlining of patients through St Luke’s hospital hinges on a successful GP referral process.
“Our bed management system works because it is the GP who decides where the patient goes,” he explained.
The MAU deals with all medical complaints including heart attacks, strokes and brain injuries. It also carries out blood tests, X-rays and cat scans and decides whether to treat, admit or discharge the patient.
“It’s a very simple thing,” Dr Courtney said. “You put a lot of responsibility back to the GPs, who are the primary care physicians. And they like it, because after all, it’s their patient.”