SEANAD leader Jerry Buttimer has called for the introduction of drunk tanks in city centre Garda stations to ease the pressure on hospital emergency departments (EDs).
The Cork-based Senator has called on City Hall to initiate a trial of separate intoxication areas in conjunction with An Garda Síochána and the HSE.
“Increasingly hospital emergency departments across the country are seeing unacceptable numbers of people attending due to high levels of intoxication,” he said.
“These people, many of whom have no ailment other than being severely drunk, are clogging up the system for genuinely ill people who find themselves waiting for hours on end to be treated. This cannot continue,” he added.
Citing UK and EU examples, Senator Buttimer explained that this is not a new idea.
“Mobile or permanent drunk tanks have been used in many other EU Member States to good effect,” he said.
“Swedish police stations contain units for people who are a danger to themselves or others, to sober up, get basic fluids and care. In the United Kingdom, mobile drunk tanks are regularly observed at large scale events such as concerts and festivals,” he added.
Dr Chris Luke, ED specialist at Mercy University Hospital, spoke to the Evening Echo previously about a similar initiative, which was supported by councillor Ken O’Flynn (FF).
“In cities like Cork and Dublin, where there is a vibrant nightlife and pubs and clubs, there will be issues with people becoming intoxicated,” said Dr Luke. “This acute intoxication leads to falls, accidents and fights. It’s important to have a facility, a medical bus, staffed by doctors and nurses with ED experience, set up to cater for those who are intoxicated, to avoid sending them to an emergency department which is already overcrowded,” he added.
Mr Buttimer said a similar facility could be funded through the small fines issued against people found drinking on the streets or intoxicated in public places.
“I would like to see my own city of Cork leading the way on this,” he added.
“It would be great to see Cork City Council trial one of these intoxication holding areas in partnership with An Garda Síochána and the HSE.
“This could be piloted in either the Bridewell Garda Station on Kyrls Quay or through the use of a mobile drunk tank in Cork city centre on busy nights.”