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Falls ‘epidemic’ requires Ministerial action – MTA Clinical Lead

Action is required at “Ministerial level” on the high incidence of major trauma arising from low falls, the Clinical Lead for the Major Trauma Audit (MTA) has told the Medical Independent (MI).

Speaking at the Mater Hospital’s 4th annual trauma conference, Dr Conor Deasy said low falls were the most frequent cause of major trauma in Ireland, accounting for 57 per cent of major trauma patients in 2017. Moreover, half of major traumas happened in the home.

The 2017 audit report advised that a multi-agency, multidisciplinary response was required to develop a strategy to prevent low falls.

When the report was released in February “we said there’s a call to arms around this figure”, according to Dr Deasy, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Cork University Hospital (CUH).

He suggested the equivalent of a national car test (NCT) for homes so that people are made aware of trip hazards. “There are many things we need to start thinking about to address this epidemic.”

Dr Deasy told MI there have since been meetings with stakeholder groups and presentations made across various fora.

“But I think this needs a ministerial level, a Governmental, response,” added Dr Deasy, who posited a “home safety authority” in the vein of the Road Safety Authority.

While this may be perceived as a “big brother thing”, Dr Deasy said people who had suffered injury due to low falls may hold a different perspective.

“If you were to ask a 75-year-old who has come in having broken their hip or sustained a head injury or chest injury or who is in hospital, ‘would you have minded 10 years ago if we had sent someone in to look out for trip hazards’, I think they’d probably say ‘of course not’.”

During his presentation, Dr Deasy stated that some hospitals that initially receive major trauma patients do not have orthopaedics on site or on-call emergency medicine.

He further noted that the ICU at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, the national neurosurgery centre, had twice the length of stay as the unit at CUH, which is also a neurosurgery centre.

According to Dr Deasy, ICU patients at CUH are moved from the unit prematurely “because there is such pressure on beds”.  He said ICU capacity is a “fundamental” issue that needs to be addressed for CUH to become a major trauma centre.

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