Longford/Westmeath Fine Gael TD, Gabrielle McFadden, has called on the Minister for State for Primary Care, Kathleen Lynch, to fast-track a community geriatrician team led by a consultant to help deal with hospital overcrowding in the Midlands.
“We have all become well aware of the overcrowding problems which have hit many hospitals in this region and around the country, particularly at this time of year. Of course, we are all deeply concerned about the situation. None of us want to see anyone lying on trolleys. It is unacceptable that people, especially our elderly, are forced to sleep on trolleys.
“We know that the issues are complex, requiring complex solutions – and this perennial problem tragically has been with us for the last ten years. We also know that it’s not just a matter of throwing more beds at the problem and this becomes even clearer when you talk to people working directly at the coalface. It requires a multi-faceted approach but one initiative which I believe would lead to a significant reduction in hospital referrals is the development of a geriatrician team working specifically in the community.
“From speaking to people in the health services, it is very clear to me that there is a pressing need to develop a sustainable joined up model to help prevent needless hospital admissions. Recently, I discovered that 16 admissions to the Midlands Regional hospital in Mullingar were elderly people transferred from nursing homes and presenting with various needs, such as the requirement for intravenous medications. I am convinced that if there was a consultant led community geriatrician team in the Midlands, many of these elderly patients could have been assessed and treated in the community.
“A number of hospitals around the country do operate different types and scales of geriatric services – geriatric assessment units, outreach services etc. – but personally, I would like to see this model where a community geriatrician, teaming up with a specialist nurse, would be based in the community. You would then have a situation where this team would visit local nursing homes and community nursing units to assess and treat elderly patients without the need for hospital admission in many cases.
“This would not only help reduce overcrowding in hospitals such as Mullingar but just as importantly preserve the dignity of older people and their families stressed about the ordeal surrounding a hospital admission.
“In the last week, I raised this issue in the Dáil with Minister Lynch, who said it is the intention of the HSE to develop an integrated care programme for older people in 2015. She said this programme would examine the variety of ways that consultant geriatricians currently work across hospitals and the community and to determine what is the most effective way to do so into the future.
“I fully believe Mullingar hospital would benefit from such an initiative. Preventing the needless transfer of elderly patients to hospitals by caring for them in the community and relieving pressures on hospitals in general could be meaningfully addressed by such a model.”