Statistical information on the “staggering” number of attendances at the Accident & Emergency Department in St Bernard’s Hospital has laid bare the strain on emergency doctors, who over the past year treated almost the equivalent of Gibraltar’s population in terms of patient visits.
The figures will likely focus attention on long-standing complaints about difficulties securing appointments to see GPs at the Primary Care Centre, with many patients heading to A&E instead.
But the data also raises deeper questions as to whether health service users properly understand when they should seek help from emergency doctors. It also underscores the need the GHA to do more to raise awareness.
In an interview with the Chronicle, Health Minister Neil Costa said the data indicates there is a need to “better educate ourselves when A&E ought to be used”.
“It is, as the name expressly states, for accidents and emergencies,” Mr Costa said.
Flagging a recent meeting of the advocacy council for health service users with additional needs, Mr Costa added that there was consensus that they must “market aggressively” the purpose for A&E.
According to GHA statistics, 31,755 patients were seen at A&E in 2016. The figures for 2017 followed the same trend, with 31,261 patients presenting themselves at A&E, according to the GHA data.
While those totals will include multiple repeat visits by some individual patients, they also sharply illustrate the demands on emergency department doctors, who can see as many as 100 patients in a single day.
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