The HSE has been actively monitoring and engaging with hospitals throughout the Christmas period. This engagement is continuing on a twice-daily basis to maximise patient flow between hospitals and community. Among the measures being taken locally are an increase in the number of ward rounds, with hospitals looking at the possible transfer of patients as appropriate to other facilities and services. The HSE has expanded home care/discharge options for patients who could possibly be cared for in a more appropriate setting. Services such as diagnostics and access to medical assessment units are being extended where possible to help deal with current pressures.
As part of its 2017/2018 Winter Plan, the HSE increased investment and focus in a number of areas including:
- An increase in home and transitional care to reduce the number of patients delayed for discharge.
- Additional acute bed capacity. Additional beds have already been opened in Galway and Limerick with more to follow across more hospitals during 2018.
- Hospital Improvement plans on patient flow that have drawn on international best practice and the experience of hospitals that have shown improvement over the past twelve months.
Each hospital has a specific plan around the Bank Holiday periods to ensure continuity of services. In anticipation of the busy post-Christmas period, hospitals had already scheduled elective surgeries in a prudent manner to ensure maximum bed capacity was available.
Acknowledging the work of staff across the system and in particular those working in acute hospitals and EDs, HSE Deputy Director General Mr John Connaghan today stated: “I would like to recognise the work our staff across the entire health system from social care, primary care and in particular the work of our Emergency Services, Acute Hospitals and Emergency Departments during this busy time. We know the pressure they are experiencing but we also know that they are continuing to deliver services. I would like to reassure the public that everything that can be done is being done to alleviate the pressures and provide access to ED services and acute beds as swiftly as is possible. Significant planning has already been undertaken regarding these winter pressures and our hospitals continue to implement the agreed measures and manage the situation.”
It should be noted that there has been a reduction of over five percent of the number of people on trolleys through the winter period to date. This reduction has been achieved despite increases in both ED presentations and admissions of over 2% during this period.
Hospitals and Community Healthcare Organisations have also achieved reductions in the number of patients being delayed on trolleys in the last quarter of 2017 as part of this year’s HSE Winter Plan.
However, we are experiencing an overall increase in the number of older patients presenting, with a 6% increase in the number of patients over-75, compared to last year. The type of illness and the needs of patients on attendance is also changing, becoming more complex and requiring higher levels of care.
Overall, there has been an increase in respiratory and flu-related illnesses in recent weeks. This is anticipated to continue for the next number of weeks. The HSE has again asked those people in the at-risk groups to get the flu vaccine if they have not already done so. There is still time to get the vaccine to prevent the onset of flu or to limit its impact.
Most people, unless they are in at-risk group, can get better themselves at home. Advice, tips, information and videos on getting over flu and other common illnesses are available at the HSE website, www.undertheweather.ie.
Most people who are usually healthy who get the flu should stay at home, rest, drink plenty of fluids and use over-the-counter remedies like paracetamol to ease symptoms.
However, anyone in one of the high-risk groups should contact their GP if they develop influenza symptoms. If anyone needs to visit their GP they are advised to phone first to explain that they might have flu.
As the public will understand, many services are under pressure at present. Many out of hours services have reported significant increases in the number of patients requesting appointments for non-urgent, routine matters. As the HSE is looking to protect services for those with greatest need, we would ask anyone considering visiting an Emergency Department or their GP to ensure their need is urgent and essential.
With so much pressure on bed capacity, the HSE continues to support the implementation of the Slaintecare Report which highlighted the not just the need to increase acute bed capacity but to address overall pressures through the expansion and development of primary care services.
Last updated on: 02 / 01 / 2018