Sunday 11 December 2016

No A&E crisis after Christmas, patients promised

Published 18/12/2015 | 02:30

Tony O’Brien, chief of the HSE
Tony O’Brien, chief of the HSE

Patients who need to attend hospital emergency departments in early January have been promised they won't have to endure the thronged conditions which led to post-Christmas trolley gridlock last winter.

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HSE chief Tony O'Brien claimed lessons had been learned from the intolerable spike last year, which left 584 patients suffering in congested emergency departments.

Hospitals are in a state of preparedness for the first two weeks after Christmas, when there is always a surge in attendances, he assured members of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

The recent opening of beds in hospitals and in the community has eased trolley waits compared with this time last year in some of the worst-hit hospitals. The fall had been over 25pc in Beaumont Hospital and 5.3pc in Galway, he said.

But there has been no improvement in Tallaght Hospital emergency department and St Vincent's Hospital has experienced a rise of 46.7pc.

In Beaumont Hospital, a physiotherapist and occupational therapist have been placed in the emergency department to assess older people for frailty. It has proved successful in avoiding admission for some patients and reducing length of stay for others. It allows for patients to be fast-tracked for geriatric assessments.

Funding

Earlier, Health Minister Leo Varadkar, who has been told the HSE will not get supplementary funding if it over-spends this year, said it was always possible to live within budgetry constaints but there were always consequences for doing so.

Meanwhile, on the anniversary of the publication of Ireland's first National Dementia Strategy, the Alzheimer Society of Ireland expressed its disappointment that its full implementation was not prioritised in the HSE service plan for 2016.

Other measures include opening radiology departments to support access to scans and X-rays.

Tina Leonard, head of advocacy, said: "With an expected 11 people set to develop dementia each day in 2016, current investment is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of demand and we would urge the Government to commit to its full implementation."

There are around 48,000 people living with dementia in Ireland and this number is expected to increase significantly. rising to 68,216 by 2021 and to 132,000 by 2041. Most are living at home and most are cared for by a family member.

Irish Independent

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