Councillor claims Galway hospital being used as ‘a GP practice’

HSE says most people who attend emergency department are in need of hospital care

University Hospital Galway: ‘A&E is available to people who really need it,’ according to  the HSE. File photograph: Eric Luke

University Hospital Galway: ‘A&E is available to people who really need it,’ according to the HSE. File photograph: Eric Luke

 

University Hospital Galway is being used as “a GP practice” by some medical-card holders which is contributing to delays, it was claimed at a regional meeting between Health Service Executive (HSE) officials and local politicians on Tuesday.

“Anyone looking at the A&E in Galway at the moment can see that it is being used by medical card patients in some – not all instances – as a GP practice,” Cllr Donagh Killilea (FF) told the HSE West forum in Galway.

“There is no charge on them to do this. It seems to be creating a backlog.”

He asked whether the HSE had any plans to implement a charge, regardless of whether someone was a medical card patient or not. “I think it is not right that those who don’t have a medical-card facility will have to pay a €100 A&E charge to use the service,” he added.

However, Tony Canavan, the chief executive of the Saolta hospital group, which covers Galway, Sligo, Letterkenny, Mayo, Portiuncula and Roscommon Univeristy Hospitals and Merlin Park Hospital, said the usage of emergency departments by medical card holders was not “a big problem”.

Hospital charges were decided by the Government, not by the HSE, he said.

“A&E is available to people who really need it . . . Yes, some attendances could be dealt with in other ways so we often ask people to consider alternatives, particularly at this time of the year but the huge numbers who do turn up, we do find they generally do need access to hospital beds and a number of clinicians have backed this up.”

Security

Cllr Liam Carroll (FG), a former mayor of Co Galway, sought assurances on hospital security following a serious incident at the end of September “where an elderly lady was allegedly assaulted by a patient in [Galway University] Hospital who was allegedly very aggressive and was maybe roaming about the emergency department”.

Security issues were also raised in relation to Mayo University Hospital by Cllr Michael Kilcoyne (Ind) who wanted answers in relation to an incident on October 26th/27th “ when a patient received serious injuries having exited through a window to a flat roof and fallen approximately 35ft”.

Mr Canavan said the incident was being investigated and all elements would be “explored and risk-assessed accordingly”.