ALMOST 400 people attended a free health clinic which was set up specifically to deal with an influx of Travellers into a small town during the Christmas period.
The HSE opened a triage clinic in Rathkeale, Co Limerick, from December 20 to January 4 to prevent potential major delays at the emergency department of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick.
During the festive period, the population of Rathkeale increases from 1,500 to almost 5,000 as Travellers return home from abroad for Christmas.
The HSE has revealed that 398 consultations took place at the clinic over the 14 days which is an average of 28 people attending daily.
Last night, the HSE said the clinic was set up to prevent any potential influx of patients from Rathkeale to the accident and emergency clinic of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
"The objective of the triage clinic is to provide a complementary service to mainstream general practice in the Rathkeale area over the Christmas period owing to the large numbers of transient members of the Traveller community who return to the area during this time," said a HSE spokesman.
Doctors and nurses were rostered to work in Rathkeale's public health clinic each day apart from December 25 and January 1.
From December 20 to January 4, they provided 98.5 hours of cover over 14 days and attended to 398 patients.
Over the previous Christmas, 477 people attended the clinic over 17 days.
Anyone wishing to use the health clinic had to present an Irish medical card or European equivalent.
It is believed that the largest complaint of those attending the clinic related to respiratory problems.
Meanwhile, gardai working in the Rathkeale area seized and impounded just over 30 foreign-registered cars from members of the Travelling community.
Extra garda patrols were deployed to the region over the Christmas period.
Motorists had their vehicles taken from them during garda inspections as they either had no driving license with them or proof of insurance.
The vast majority have since been returned to their owners after all paperwork was presented to gardai and deemed in order.