Patients with flu symptoms ‘choosing A&E over GP’

Amid sustained overcrowding, survey finds many opt for hospital visit for flu treatment

Ireland’s emergency departments have experienced sustained peak levels of attendances so far in 2016, with flu and the winter vomiting bug both identified by the HSE as key factors in overcrowding. Photograph: Shutterstock

Ireland’s emergency departments have experienced sustained peak levels of attendances so far in 2016, with flu and the winter vomiting bug both identified by the HSE as key factors in overcrowding. Photograph: Shutterstock

 

A new survey on healthcare in Ireland has found that a large number of patients opt to attend an emergency department (ED) rather than a GP, when suffering from influenza symptoms.

Of those surveyed who have attended an ED with flu-like symptoms, over half did so because they feel only a hospital can provide them with the urgent treatment they require.

However, despite this view, over a quarter (28 per cent) of patients waited for 2-5 hours before being seen by a healthcare professional, while 21 per cent waited 6-10 hours.

Only 48 per cent were tested for the flu while in ED, and despite the fact that some flu testing kits provide a result in under ten minutes, 43 per cent had to wait over an hour to get the results.

The findings come as Ireland’s emergency departments have experienced sustained peak levels of attendances so far in 2016, with flu and the winter vomiting bug both identified by the HSE as key factors in overcrowding.

The survey, undertaken by Ignite Research on behalf of US medical diagnostics firm Alere surveyed a representative sample of 1,000 people across Ireland.

The research revealed that despite the often difficult conditions in EDs, a majority of respondents had a positive experience of health services (51 per cent).

Almost 40 per cent want the next government to prioritise investment in health, making it the number one priority over housing, economic recovery and education.

Twenty-six per cent of respondents who used health services said they had a very positive experience while 11 per cent said they had a very negative experience. The remaining 63 per cent did not expressing strong views either way.