| 5.4°C Dublin

Hospitals running out of plaster over ice-related injuries

HOSPITALS could run out of plaster of Paris after a surge in broken bones due to the icy conditions.

The feared shortfall in the cast material at some hospitals comes as the number of casualties with broken bones quadrupled since Christmas.

Broken wrists, ankles and coccyx bones -- at the base of the spine -- have been the most common fractures. Apart from slips and falls, a number of people were injured while sliding down hills on improvised sleighs.

One person had to be treated by ambulance workers and taken to hospital after being hit by a heavy oven door in the Phoenix Park. Road signs that have been broken from their frames have also been spotted being used as makeshift sleighs, with jagged metal edges making them potentially lethal.

"We have mainly seen pedestrians who have fallen on icy footpaths," said the Mater Hospital's A&E consultant John McInerney. "The injuries were all related to falls and slips, and in many cases the breaks were very bad where people fell with high impact," he added.

"There were also a number of back injuries to be dealt with too, and we noticed that the injuries we would usually see presented by the older generation, who suffer more from osteoporosis, were affecting younger people who were falling," he added.

"And we also saw Mass-goers, particularly the elderly, coming in with broken wrists and ankles after falls.

"At one stage, we thought we might run out of plaster of Paris, we were dealing with that many cases. Some of the fracture types quadrupled compared to normal," said the busy consultant.

The Mater Hospital also saw a rise in the number of casualties having to undergo surgery to pin, plate, or manipulate broken bones to help set them.

"We are still finding high numbers of people coming in. There will probably be a lag period of a week after the thaw before things return to normal," Mr McInerney added.

The upside for A&E staff is that the numbers of alcohol-related injuries through violence, as well as road crash injuries, have dropped in recent weeks as people stayed in to avoid the cold.