A call has been made for violent and drunk people in A&E departments to be treated separately for the safety of other patients.
The MLA who made the call said he is aware the issue is a common problem in A&E departments generally, but that in the last month he has received repeated reports about the issue.
“I had three different people with elderly relatives complain to me last month,” said Northern Ireland UKIP leader David McNarry.
“When you get three different people coming to you in the same month about the same problem, you sit up and take notice,” he said.
“In each case they had taken their mother or father to A&E in the Ulster Hospital and in each case it was a total disgrace, with people drinking or on drugs. They were all over the place rolling on the floor and shouting.
“In each case the intoxicated person was accompanied by three or four friends who were also pushing people about, taunting people and demanding they be treated regardless of any queue.
“People were appalled and frightened. One of them told me they were scared to move a muscle. You do worry for doctors and nurses and porters in these situations.”
He added: “So I thought – why not isolate these drunks in a separate holding area?”
Mr McNarry put his suggestion to Health Minister Edwin Poots in an Assembly question.
The minister responded that he had no such plans but said that by March 2015 there should be seven-day-a-week “substance misuse liaison services” within all appropriate acute hospitals.
“This service would work in hospital emergency departments and acute medical wards to identify individuals where alcohol has played a role in their attendance/admittance, provide screening and brief interventions, and signposting those who need additional support to appropriate services,” Mr Poots said.
Violence still a problem – RCN
Garrett Martin, deputy director of the Royal College of Nursing in Northern Ireland, told the News Letter yesterday that violence in hospital A&E departments, particularly at weekends is “a continuing problem”.
He added: “Not only is it distressing for staff, who are often the victims of either physical or verbal abuse, but it is distressing for other patients waiting in the department who can be very ill and vulnerable.”