Written Answers. - Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital.

Ivor Callely

Question:

29 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Health his understanding of the demands on the accident and emergency department of the Eye and Ear Hospital, Dublin 2; if the long delays for patients have been brought to his attention; the pattern, if any, there is in the demands on the accident and emergency department within and outside working hours; the consideration, if any, which has been given to improving the provision of accident and emergency services at the Eye and Ear Hospital; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4030/97]

Limerick East): The Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital operates a 24 hour ophthalmic accident and emergency service seven days each week. It also operates a five day accident and emergency service for the treatment of ear nose and throat conditions. This service is available from 8.00 a.m.- 5.00 p.m., Monday - Friday.

The accident and emergency department at the Eye and Ear Hospital receives approximately 42,000 attendances per annum. I am not aware that the hospital has received any significant volume of complaints regarding the operation of its accident and emergency department. It must be appreciated that because of the nature of the work, it is not possible to predict, with certainty, the workload of hospital accident and emergency departments at any particular time. On occasions, pressures may arise outside of normal working hours.

In general, hospitals operate a policy which accords priority to those most in need. In the normal course, this means that persons with less serious complaints may have to wait while higher priority cases are being treated.

Experience in the provision of accident and emergency services has shown that a significant number of those who attend could be treated as effectively and far quicker by their family doctor. This is why the current public education campaign on the appropriate use of accident and emergency departments was launched. The thrust behind the campaign is to keep accident and emergency departments clear for recognised urgent emergencies.

If the Deputy has a specific case in mind, perhaps he would furnish the details to me and I will arrange for the hospital to investigate the circumstances.