HSE ‘tsar’ to lead bid to avoid win­ter chaos

Nine hos­pi­tals tar­geted over num­bers of pa­tients on trol­leys

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - News - Cor­mac McQuinn

A WIN­TER plan ‘tsar’ will over­see the health ser­vice’s bid to avoid chaos in hos­pi­tals in the com­ing months.

The idea is among mea­sures be­ing in­tro­duced by the HSE fol­low­ing the pa­pal visit to Ire­land.

A sin­gle HSE of­fi­cial was tasked with co-or­di­nat­ing the health ser­vice’s re­sponse to the Pope’s visit in Au­gust, which in­cluded ex­tended open­ing hours for pri­mary care cen­tres and mi­nor in­jury clin­ics to ease pres­sure on hos­pi­tals.

This will be repli­cated in the de­layed €30m win­ter plan along with other ‘en­hanced mea­sures’ which have been de­signed to avoid what has be­come an an­nual cri­sis in the health sys­tem.

Nine hos­pi­tals iden­ti­fied as “sites of con­cern” will be tar­geted. These are hos­pi­tals which have al­ready had is­sues with pa­tients on trol­leys this year and over the past two win­ters.

They in­clude Tal­laght Hos­pi­tal, the Mater and St Vin­cent’s hos­pi­tals in Dublin and the Uni­ver­sity Hos­pi­tals in Gal­way, Lim­er­ick, Cork and Water­ford. Other as­pects of the plan in­clude ‘win­ter-ready’ clin­ics be­ing set up in com­mu­ni­ties.

The plan lasts un­til March 31 with what is de­scribed as an ‘en­hanced fo­cus pe­riod’ for four weeks from De­cem­ber 17 to Jan­uary 13. It is un­der­stood that the per­son co-or­di­nat­ing the plan has been iden­ti­fied but won’t be an­nounced un­til later this week.

“In­tro­duc­ing the win­ter plan this late is as­tound­ing given the warn­ings from politi­cians and doc­tors and nurses since Au­gust,” said Fianna Fail TD Stephen Don­nelly .

He pointed to fig­ures from the Irish Nurses and Mid­wives Or­gan­i­sa­tion show­ing the num­ber of pa­tients wait­ing on hos­pi­tal trol­leys this year has hit a new high, sur­pass­ing 100,000. The HSE puts the fig­ure at 91,000. Mr Don­nelly said the sit­u­a­tion was “dis­grace­ful” and “avoid­able”.

Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris’ spokesper­son said plan­ning for win­ter had been tak­ing place since June. She said parts of the plan, in­clud­ing €16m for home-care pack­ages to help avoid hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions, were al­ready be­ing put in place.

The Govern­ment had com­mit­ted to in­tro­duc­ing 2,600 ad­di­tional beds, with 79 of these to be de­liv­ered by early 2019, she said, adding that Mr Har­ris was com­mit­ted to re­vers­ing “years of bed clo­sures” by Fianna Fail.

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