Emergency department doctors in Dublin are now making house calls for elderly patients

The service is running seven days a week, from 8am to 6pm.

DOCTORS AT TWO Dublin hospitals have launched a house call service for elderly patients who may be reluctant to attend the emergency department due to Covid-19. 

The service, which is voluntarily run by ten doctors and two occupational therapists, includes a full medical and targeted functional assessment, operating seven days a week from 8am to 6pm in conjunction with the National Ambulance Service.

Older people in the catchment of St Vincent’s and St Michael’s – stretching from Dublin city centre to north Wexford -  can have an emergency department doctor or occupational therapist visit their home once they’ve been referred to the service by a GP, nursing home, or emergency services. 

“Instead of them coming to us, we’re going to them,” Dr Rosa McNamara, Emergency Medicine Consultant at St Vincent’s told 

She says many patients are reluctant to visit an emergency department at the moment so the service not only offers them enormous peace of mind but it’s also allowing people the chance to be cared for at home whenever possible. 

The service first started back in February on a weekend-only basis after Dr McNamara and her colleagues noticed that a lot of older people in rural areas were having difficulties accessing normal community health services at the weekends. 

“A lot of old people, who might have a minor injury or need a basic assessment, inevitably end up calling an ambulance because they’ve no other option,” said McNamara. 

“And so the service then developed so that we will always have a senior doctor and an occupational therapist in the car to be able to do joint medical and functional assessments for frail older people.

The kinds of things they’re doing I suppose is typical work in some ways for emergency departments. We’ve seen lots of people who’ve had falls and are afraid to come into hospital, so it’s allowing them to stay at home. 

The service, which expanded to a seven-day a week service a couple of days ago, also caters to nursing homes in the catchment area who need a hand or particular supports until their own GP or medical officer is available. 

“Sometimes there’s too much to do for one person, so we’re trying to support where we can,” Dr McNamara said. 

“The reality is, some of our GP colleagues are so stretched at the moment that they can’t guarantee they’ll be able to review patients within a day or two. We’ll try and pick them up to bridge the gap.” 

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