One quarter of older patients choose alternatives to ED

At the launch of the Pathfinder service at UHL were physiotherapist Blaithin Lally; paramedic Linda O’Rourke; physiotherapist Nicola Donohue; paramedic Pat McCarthy and occupational therapist Niamh Ganley.

MORE than one quarter of patients offered alternatives to hospital through the new Pathfinder scheme operating out of Limerick opted to take those options, the latest figures have shown.

A HSE National Ambulance Service (NAS) led service called Pathfinder, designed to safely keep older people who phone 112/999 in their own home rather than taking them to a hospital emergency department, went live in Limerick October 2022.

The Pathfinder ‘Rapid Response Team’ respond to 999/112 calls for older people in their homes. Under the scheme, older people are assessed by both an Advanced Paramedic and Occupational Therapist/Physiotherapist.

Where safe, the team supports the older person at home rather than transporting them to an emergency department by linking with a wide range of alternative hospital and community services.

The figures were presented to West Clare Fianna Fáil Councillor Cillian Murphy when he asked for an update at this month’s meeting of the Health Forum West.

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He was told that between the launch of the scheme and the end of last year, in 83 cases where the Pathfinder team answered a call, 25 patients – 30.12 per cent – opted for alternative means of treatment other than going to hospital

This year, up to week 18,186 call-outs were attended by the team and 45 patients – 24.19 per cent – took the alternative route.

This added up to 269 Pathfinder responses since the launch and 70 people treated and supported under alternative means, a total of 26.02 per cent of the number of patients attended.

Pathfinder also operates a ‘Follow-Up Team’ (Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy) which provides immediate home-based rehabilitation, equipment provision, and case management in the subsequent days following a 999/112 call.

While the new measure is designed to protect older people from the stresses and chances of infection involved in a long wait at a hospital ED, University Hospital Limerick still had the highest number of admitted patients on trolleys in the country on the majority of days since the scheme was launched.

Records kept by the Limerick Post starting on October 16 last year show that, at one point, UHL had the highest number of patients waiting on trolleys in the country for 49 reported days in a row.