Sports injuries accounted for one in three visits to the Health Service Executive’s network of minor injury units last year, according to new figures.
Some 34 per cent of those attending – or about 33,000 people a year – suffered cuts, sprain, broken bones or other injuries playing sport, the survey of patients by the HSE indicates. Thirty per cent said their injury occurred at home while the remaining 36 per cent of cases involved injuries sustained at work or outside.
The units are equipped to perform X-rays, apply plaster casts and stitch wounds. Laboratory and physiotherapy services are also available.
The HSE is anxious to promote the use of the injury units as an alternative to emergency departments in order to relieve pressure on hospitals and provide appropriate care at a lower cost. Many of the 11 units across the State are located in hospitals whose 24-hour emergency departments have closed, including Mallow, Monaghan, Loughlinstown and Ennis.
However, many areas are not served by a unit and opening hours vary considerably. Some centres stay open until 8pm, seven days a week, while others are open just five days a week, up to 5pm. In addition, non-medical cardholders have to pay the same fee (€100), as for an emergency department unless they have a referral letter from a GP.
Up to half of all patients attending an injury unit were there for the first time, according to a survey of 600 patients attending 10 of the units. Half were referred by a GP and the other half were presenting directly. Most patients rated the service excellent or very good.
The other units are located at Dundalk, Smithfield in Dublin, Roscommon, Nenagh, Limerick, Cork and Bantry.
The units do not treat serious injuries, stomach pain, mental health problems or children aged under five.