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Accident and Emergency Departments

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 21 March 2017

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Questions (775)

Kevin Boxer Moran


775. Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran asked the Minister for Health his plans to liaise with the Ministers for Finance and Social Protection regarding penalties or programmes for otherwise healthy persons who cost the State money by repeatedly clogging up accident and emergency services through multiple cases of injuries and incoherence arising out of intoxication, which is leading to a reduced service for other more vulnerable persons; if such penalties could include the docking of a portion of social welfare payments or an increased income tax surcharge; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13023/17]

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Written answers (Question to Health)

Emergency Departments (ED) provide a 24 hour healthcare service for people, irrespective of the nature of their problem or their social circumstances. ED staff adopt a non-judgmental approach to patients who are intoxicated, misuse substances, have social problems or who may be temporarily unable to look after themselves.

A key challenge in dealing with undiagnosed and acutely distressed patients in an Emergency Department environment is to distinguish between distress that is the result of illness and that which is due to anxiety. This challenge is greater in the case of deciding if someone is simply intoxicated or has a serious medical problem that became manifest after they have been drinking alcohol. The management of patients who have a head injury but also happen/appear to be intoxicated is just one example of why extreme caution and diligence is needed in this area.

It must always be remembered that people who have taken alcohol or other drugs often require medical assistance, either as a direct result of the substances they have taken or because they are more likely to be injured or develop an acute medical complaint.

The docking of social welfare payments or increase tax surcharges as identified by the Deputy are not within the remit of the Department of Health.