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Better use of district hospitals required

02 Feb 2017

A review of the district hospital network is needed, the Seanad has heard.

“These hospitals are a good distance from acute hospitals,” Mayo GP, Senator Keith Swanick said. “For example, Belmullet is over 50 miles from one. I believe community hospitals have a pivotal role to play in a modern health service as they can fulfil multiple roles.

“For example, they can prevent admissions to acute hospitals because GPs can admit directly to them. They also facilitate discharges from acute hospitals. If somebody has a hip replacement, he or she can be transferred to a community hospital and receive rehabilitation with the help of a community physiotherapist in the community — thus freeing up an acute hospital bed.

“More importantly, district hospitals can work as an interface between the Fair Deal scheme and the acute hospital sector.”

The community hospital network should not be seen as a relic of a bygone era, he said.

If somebody was an acute hospital patient and applied for the Fair Deal scheme, they were often as long as 12 weeks in the acute hospital bed. There was no reason that the patient could not be transferred to a community hospital for the intervening period before being transferred to the nursing home, the Fianna Fáil Senator suggested.

Community-based investigations in general practice should be encouraged, added Dr Swanwick. His own surgery has an ultrasound scanner, a DEXA scanner for osteoporosis, spirometry for breathing testing and audiometry for hearing. These were being underutilised as there was “no funding model available for medical card patients”, he mentioned.

“This means that patients are disenfranchised as they have to travel to acute hospitals to have these investigations carried out, when they could be carried out in the community.”

Senator Swanick said there was a need to invest in training more young GPs, practice nurses and community health nurses, and he called for extra funding for general practice out-of-hours services so that multiple GPs could work during particularly busy periods from mid-December to mid-January to help reduce ED referrals.

gary.culliton@imt.ie

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