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Known as Protocol 37, the Emergency Inter Hospital Transfer Policy commenced in April 2016, with just 15 transfers taking place that month.
Some 48 emergency transfers occurred in May and 53 in June. In December, 114 transfers took place, with a total of 611 transfers occurring in the first eight months of 2016.
Some 27 hospitals are currently accessing Protocol 37 and by the end of the year, all hospitals nationally (50) will have access, a HSE spokesperson told the Medical Independent (MI). Before the protocol was introduced, inter-hospital transfer requests were implemented in a non-standard way, the HSE explained.
“Transfers were being requested at various levels of clinical responsibility and ambulance dispatchers were forced to make decisions without the support of any approved medical prioritisation system. Patient safety depended on factors which required approved and recognised protocols.”
In order for a transfer to take place, a clinical assessment of a patient occurs in hospitals where the patient requires urgent care only available at another hospital in order to reduce mortality or morbidity.
“The purpose of the protocol is to put in place a process that enables the primary clinical decision-maker in a hospital to access the National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) decision-making in a way that will identify their emergency inter-hospital patient transfer request as an emergency call at the same level as a 112 (999) emergency call in the community,” said the HSE.
The Executive cautioned that demand for the service could increase further in the future.
“We are conscious of increasing demand as the ‘roll-out’ develops and we will continue to monitor our response capability in line with this.”
Emergency hospital transfers are triaged in the same way as all national emergency calls and therefore result in the withdrawal of an ambulance from the community.