New ways to help the home­less and drunk

Kapi-Mana News - - REGIONAL - By JIM CHIPP

A project to im­prove the ef­fec­tive­ness of Welling­ton Hospi­tal’s emer­gency depart­ment has suc­ceeded so spec­tac­u­larly that other health boards are adopt­ing it.

When­ever an injured per­son turns up at Welling­ton’s emer­gency depart­ment staff screen them for al­co­hol-use and find out whether they are home­less.

If they ap­pear too fre­quently a multi-agency team in­ter­venes, and those in­ter­ven­tions have sharply re­duced the burden that home­less al­co­holics and ‘‘fre­quent fly­ers’’ place on emer­gency de­part­ments.

Paul Quigley is an emer­gency medicine spe­cial­ist who di­vides his time be­tween Welling­ton and Hutt hos­pi­tals.

He said the project fo­cused on in­juries be­cause they of­fer the best re­turn for staff time.

In­juries that oc­cur in the pres­ence of al­co­hol are more costly to treat and more likely to re­cur, he said.

‘‘Pa­tients who present with in­juries are be­ing asked whether, firstly, the pa­tient them­selves feels that the in­jury is re­lated to al­co­hol, staff make their own judge­ment and, thirdly, the pa­tient is screened for al­co­hol,’’ he said.

‘‘Ask­ing pa­tients di­rectly whether the in­jury was re­lated to al­co­hol has been very eye-open­ing in terms of find­ing out what the day-to-day cost to the coun­try is of al­co­hol.’’

Staff also find out whether the pa­tient is home­less, he said.

The aim is to find out why they are fre­quently re­turn­ing.

‘‘More than of­ten it is the non-med­i­cal rea­sons,’’ Dr Quigley said.

If a pa­tient has more than three pre­sen­ta­tions within one month, and is ei­ther home­less or al­co­hol is in­volved, they get the first flag, he said.

At the sub­se­quent pre­sen­ta­tion staff carry out an in­ter­ven­tion.

If they are home­less they are re­ferred to Te Aro Health cen­tre, to give them an al­ter­na­tive to the emer­gency depart­ment, and to a so­cial worker to deal with ac­com­mo­da­tion is­sues.

Over-achiever: Emer­gency medicine spe­cial­ist Paul Quigley is lead­ing a project in­ves­ti­gat­ing the role of al­co­hol in the in­juries of pa­tients treated in hospi­tal emer­gency de­part­ments.

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