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Question time: The right choice

Why have a cure – in the form of a clinic – in Paceville rather than go for prevention?

Imagine this. It’s a hot balmy Saturday summer night and Paceville is teeming with our young people and tourists out on the town. The heavy partying increases exponentially with the ticking of the hours.

By close to midnight Mater Dei Hospital’s emergency department is chock-a-bloc as well, mostly with some of these same people whose night on the town had gone wrong. The number of ambulances being dispatched to Paceville to pick youths suffering from alcohol abuse and minor injuries increases by the hour.

In the wee hours of the morning a very distressed 72-year-old gentleman whose elderly wife suddenly collapsed arrives at A&E. The large numbers of other “patients” present clog the system and could potentially lead to vital minutes being lost.

Informed of the situation, the emergency department triage nurse has to make a choice and she has to make it fast. Who gets seen first? The young man from Paceville who probably just needs a few butterfly stitches on his forehead and a bed to sleep off his drunkenness? Or, rather, the evidently unwell elderly lady? But what if the young man suffered a concussion that could threaten his life unless monitored and treated promptly?

Granted, this is a hypothetical situation and under my watch Mater Dei’s emergency department will never abandon its responsibilities regardless of the work load. But we have to face reality and I consider it my equal responsibility to ensure that this vital organ in our healthcare system remains healthy and functions smoothly without avoidable strains.

The clinic will not workunless we continue to make Paceville safer

How do I propose to deal with the Paceville issue?

In theory and in practice, the crucial policy question is one. Can Mater Dei’s emergency department remain the only port of call for the medical and social issues percolating from Paceville’s nightlife and other hotspots?

No, it cannot.

That is why we have opened talks with the hospitality industry in Paceville to see how best to proceed with their contribution. It is after all in their interest that the area remains safe and is perceived to be so.

I did not stop there. I am also spearheading a debate on a game-changing idea: the setting up of a rapid response clinic in Paceville. Its remit would be to screen and offer first-tier treatment, thereby preventing non-serious cases from gravitating to Mater Dei. The goal is to ensure that the latter’s emergency department would be unclogged and freed to treat those in a real emergency.

To summarily deal with a common misconception, stationing an ambulance in Paceville could actually well be counterproductive. It will only serve to ferry even more ‘patients’ to Mater Dei, consequently exacerbating the problem.

The Paceville clinic idea is under active consideration and, so far, the pros are weightier than the cons. Nevertheless, it is still an idea that needs to be explored further.

Having said all this, such a clinic cannot be a stand-alone solution. The main thrust of our political efforts in Paceville needs to be rooted in prevention, more enforcement and better education. The clinic will not work unless we continue to make Paceville safer. This is a whole government effort: security in entertainment hotspots to allow our children to have a safe recreation environment is a priority.

Ticking away all and not some of these boxes is the only way to guarantee that the Mater Dei emergency department triage nurse will never have to make a choice between which life to save.

Ever.

The Nationalist Party failed to send their contribution in time for publication.

If you would like to put any questions to the two parties in Parliament send an e-mail marked clearly Question Time to editor@timesofmalta.com.

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