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Emergency inter-hospital transfers continue to rise

Launched last April, Protocol 37 transfers are increasing monthly and have risen from 15 transfers in April 2016 to 282 in the month of May 2017.

The transfers are undertaken by the National Ambulance Service (NAS) via the priority dispatch suite used by the National Emergency Operations Centre.

Data published by PHECC shows that the Ireland East Hospital group was the largest user of Protocol 37 in May, requesting 25 per cent of the total transfers out of hospitals.

The Children’s Hospital Group accessed the protocol three times, but received 30 transfers into the Group under Protocol 37 in May.  According to PHECC, the implementation phase of the project ended in September.

“Protocol 37 enables the transferring hospital to designate one-of-three response times, immediate (Delta), within 30 minutes (Charlie) and within 60 minutes (Bravo). The requesting clinician decides when the ambulance is required, based on these predetermined time frames, to avoid the patient waiting on an ambulance or having an ambulance waiting on a patient,” information released by PHECC states.

“Turnaround times are monitored weekly by the project lead, both within the receiving and transferring hospitals and information on delays are relayed back to each hospital via identified liaison personnel.”

Last year more than 600 transfers occurred, while in the first five months of 2017 over 900 transfers took place. 

Before the protocol was introduced inter-hospital transfer requests were implemented in a non-standard way.

In order for a transfer to take place, a clinical assessment of a patient occurs in hospital where the patient requires urgent care only available at another hospital in order to reduce mortality or morbidity, the HSE has advised.

Emergency hospital transfers are triaged in the same way as all emergency calls and result in the withdrawal of an ambulance from the community.

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