Thursday 23 January 2020

'This cannot continue' - senator calls for 'drunk tanks' to free up hospital emergency departments

Binge-drinking is the cause of one third of weekend A&E visits in Ireland, according to a recent study. (Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Binge-drinking is the cause of one third of weekend A&E visits in Ireland, according to a recent study. (Stock photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire)
Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Drunk people who present themselves to emergency departments should be placed in separate intoxication holding areas, according to senator Jerry Buttimer.

The Fine Gael senator has called for the introduction of the holding areas, or 'drunk tanks' as they are often known, in City Centre Garda stations to reduce the pressure on emergency departments.

"Hospital emergency departments across the country are seeing unacceptable numbers of people attending due to high levels of intoxication," senator Buttimer said.

"These people, many of whom have no ailment other than being severely drunk, are clogging up the system for genuinely ill people who find themselves waiting for hours on end to be treated.

"This cannot continue."

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Fine Gael's Jerry Buttimer

Buttimer added that the idea of permanent drunk tanks is not a new one, as many European countries have a similar operation in place.

"Swedish police stations contain units for people who are a danger to themselves or others, to sober up, get basic fluids and care.  In the United Kingdom, mobile drunk tanks are regularly observed at large scale events such as concerts and festivals.

"I suggest that similar facilities here could be funded through the small fines issued against people found drinking on the streets or intoxicated in public places."

According to a recent study, binge-drinking is the cause of one third of weekend A&E visits in Ireland.

Patients who had drink on them were 50pc more likely to be transported to hospital by ambulance, the research led by Galway University Hospital emergency department in 'BMJ Open' revealed.

Overall, more than one in 20 of 3,139 patients attending A&Es over four specified six-hour periods were investigated were there due to alcohol.

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