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23 April 2014

Fewer People seek hospital treatment on public holidays

 - Sunday, 22 April 2012, 00:00 , by Stephen Calleja

The number of people seeking treatment at Mater Dei Hospital on major public holidays, as well as on their eve, is consistently lower than the average on other days, according to an internal report carried out by the Health Ministry.

But what stood out more in the report, which covered the period between 2010 and Easter this year, is that on the two days when people went to vote – for the divorce referendum (28 May 2011) and the local council elections (10 March 2012) the number of people calling at the Accident and Emergency Department was significantly below average.

These results lead health authorities to believe that there are people who turn up at the Accident and Emergency Department – on ordinary days – without needing hospital treatment. It cannot be, they argue, that fewer people are sick or injured on public holidays or polling days – it’s just that on other days they go to Mater Dei needlessly.

A Health Ministry spokesman told The Malta Independent on Sunday that he did not want to speculate on the reasons for this, but it is clear that people go to hospital for treatment more on a work day than on a holiday.

The internal report was commissioned after it was noticed that on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday this year no patients had to wait in the Emergency Admitting Ward to be transferred to the main section of the hospital.

And the report confirmed that, generally speaking, the number of people who go to Mater Dei on days such as Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and the Santa Marija holiday in August – apart from Holy Week – is lower than the average on most other days in the same weeks.

This suggests that many people attend the A&E Department at Mater Dei for minor ailments that could be treated elsewhere or which actually require little medical attention, if any. Only those who really need urgent treatment go to the hospital on days that are normally associated with entertainment, family gatherings or holy activities.

The only exception seems to be New Year’s Day, during which the number of people going to the A&E Department is more or less average, if not higher. This, the report notes, reflects the admissions at night due to intoxication and injuries normally associated with the kind of festivities and parties held that night.

It was also noted that the number of people who go to Mater Dei Hospital on days immediately following a public holiday is often higher than normal. For example, one of the busiest days at the hospital is Boxing Day.

The report also indicates that the number of people who go to hospital without a referral from their doctor on public holidays is higher than the average. This is because often doctors are unavailable on such days or simply refer the patient to the hospital by telephone.

On the other hand, the statistics for public holidays that are considered less popular – such as those commemorating political or historical events – do not show consistent trends, but it was remarked that there is a slight increase in the number of people going to Mater Dei on the days following these public holidays.

Again, this is highly indicative of the fact that people do not go to Mater Dei unnecessarily on public holidays and tend to go to hospital more on workdays.

Another trend that emerged is that Monday is the busiest day for the A&E Department at all times of the year. This suggests that people tend to avoid the hospital on a Sunday – which is a non-working day for most – but then turn up at Mater Dei the next day.

People who are seen at Mater Dei are given a certificate that could be used as an excuse for not being at work.

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