A medical clinic could soon be set up in Paceville to handle the drunk revellers who normally crowd the hospital’s emergency unit on weekends, Health Minister Chris Fearne said on Tuesday.
“On weekends and holidays, we are experiencing a number of, let’s call them ‘patients’, who call at Mater Dei Hospital suffering from the effects of excessive drinking or some form of abuse or other. Naturally, you must treat them, and many end up in the emergency department,” Mr Fearne said.
He was contacted by the Times of Malta after a number of accident and emergency department staff complained of being inundated by people in need of treatment either due to alcohol or drug abuse.
The halls of the already over-stretched department were often filled with young people suffering from alcohol poisoning or other symptoms linked to substance abuse following a wild night out.
Drunk patients come to emergency to sleep
Some staff members have even complained of drunk partygoers turning the emergency ambulance team into an unofficial “taxi service”.
“Tonight, was the epitome of abuse of the emergency ambulance service. We were completely flooded, with over 70 ambulance movements in just one night shift, with the vast majority being alcohol-intoxicated patients from Paceville who simply come to the emergency department to sleep,” wrote one frustrated nurse on social media over the weekend.
Hospital administration sources said on Tuesday that they were aware the problem was getting worse.
“In summer, on feast days and when big events take place, we always experience an intake of patients with alcohol poisoning or drug abuse symptoms,” they said.
“But this has grown exponentially this year.”
A senior member of the hospital’s top brass said that the ever-increasing number of foreigners was making the problem even worse.
“While many Maltese can rely on friends or family to look after them when they have gone overboard, tourists and foreign nationals will walk up to the police or an ambulance asking for help because they have no other option,” the sources said.
Mr Fearne said he was aware of the situation, adding that, while it was normal for any hospital’s workload to increase in busier periods of the year, he insisted he would not allow staff at the emergency department to be overwhelmed.
“I understand that when one analyses where these patients are coming from, there are hotspots. I have therefore given direction to explore having an immediate medical unit in Paceville, so certain patients can be treated onsite without having to be taken to hospital,” the minister said.
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