Large majority of social cases are women - 3/9/2006

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Large majority of social cases are women
by Juan Ameen

Almost 60 per cent of social cases at St Luke’s Hospital are women according to a study published in the July issue of the Malta Medical Journal.

The study was published by Dr Paul Zammit and Peter Ferry from the Department of Geriatrics at Zammit Clapp Hospital and was a descriptive study of patients over 60 who were classified as social cases.

The study found that the average age of social cases was 80 and at least 80 per cent were in medical wards. The large majority were women (58.4 per cent) and 41.6 per cent were men.

Out of the 75 social cases examined in the report, 44 were women and 31 were men.

Eighty per cent (60 patients) were in medical wards, 17.3 per cent (13 patients) in surgical wards, and 2.7 per cent (two patients) in other wards.

Although the report stated that other studies on social cases were carried out on medical wards, it pointed out that they only occupied 6.5 per cent of the total beds.

According to the results, most of the social cases in St Luke’s were not there for social reasons only, but were highly dependant on activities of daily living, which hampered their discharge in the community.

A social case was defined as a patient who no longer needs to occupy an acute bed and “whose discharge is proving problematic, or who is awaiting transfer to another institution, usually for chronic care”.

One of the main problems posed by social cases is that they occupy a bed that might be needed by a patient who requires acute medical treatment.

It also said, “Social cases are a dependent population that need a high degree of assistance” and “females were more dependant than males.”

Twelve per cent (nine patients) were found to suffer from dementia. At least 75 per cent of social cases with a stroke were found to be highly dependent, along with 41.6 per cent of those with heart problems and 46.7 per cent of patients with diabetes.

The study found that 28 per cent of the social cases had a low level of dependence, while another 10 per cent were fully independent.

The report also pointed out that there are few studies on the subject and blamed it on a lack of interest in the problems of these patients or “to a sense of disownment by the health professionals concerned.”

The study included all the officially registered social cases at St Luke’s Hospital aged 60 and over.

It suggested setting up an interdisciplinary approach to improve the level of dependence on hospital staff and “may result in a possible discharge back in the community”.

The rehabilitation programme will be made up of “a specialised unit, involving geriatricians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and social workers may help the less dependent to return to the community.”

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