Sunday 18 February 2018

Harris: I'll replace hospital managers

Minister wants to bring in 'other providers' when managers fail

Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Health Minister Simon Harris Photo: Colin O'Riordan

Philip Ryan and Maeve Sheehan

Minister for Health Simon Harris is willing to replace hospital managers by bringing in outside experts as part of his new plan to resolve the trolley crisis in Irish hospitals.

This weekend the Minister said that he is prepared to use a commitment in the Programme for Government to draft in outside contractors to manage the nation's hospitals.

"You can't decide that all managers are all the same, and they are all equally good," said Minister Harris.

"You have to decide what's good practice and what's bad practice - measure it and demand more of it. And if more of it means bringing experts, bringing in outsiders, let's absolutely do that, so let's have legislation underpinning it."

Record numbers of patients were crowded into hospital emergency departments last week. Overcrowding - measured by the number of hospital in-patients being cared for on trolleys - eased from a high of 612 on Tuesday to 395 on Friday morning. The figures fell to 190 on Saturday, according to HSE figures.

But a spike in flu numbers could trigger a new overcrowding crisis. Flu numbers are currently rising. The number of flu-related calls to GP out-of-hours services is now at the highest rate since winter 2010-2011.

The Emergency Department Task Force has been asked to monitor the deaths of patients who have been through emergency departments, following fears that hospital overcrowding endangers lives.

Stephen McMahon, the patients' advocate who sits on the Task Force, said he raised the issue after warnings from the Irish Emergency Medicine Association that 350 to 500 patients die in Irish hospitals as a result of overcrowding.

"This is a shocking a number. We need to monitor deaths in our hospitals and review them in the context of patients' experience through the emergency department and to compare against the forecast," he said. "This was not a suggestion for further consideration but an action point for the Task Force."

Last Friday, Mr Harris said the health service was not prepared for the flu outbreak. The HSE has announced the opening of 60 beds in 10 hospitals and committed to opening 63 others. Private hospitals will also be asked to help ease overcrowding.

Sunday Independent

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