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HSE chief says Covid-19 still impacting emergency department wait times

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HSE Interim Chief Clinical Officer Damien McCallion says Covid-19 is still impacting emergency department wait times. Stock photo

HSE Interim Chief Clinical Officer Damien McCallion says Covid-19 is still impacting emergency department wait times. Stock photo

HSE Interim Chief Clinical Officer Damien McCallion says Covid-19 is still impacting emergency department wait times. Stock photo

HSE Interim Chief Clinical Officer Damien McCallion has blamed an increase in hospital attendances and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic for the wait times at hospital emergency departments (EDs) across the country.

In the first five months of this year, 24,983 people waited for over 24 hours to be seen in EDs. 

Figures obtained by Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane, in response to a parliamentary questions, revealed the number of people waiting over 24 hours jumped from 8,865 during the same period in 2021. 

Meanwhile, of the 24,983 people who have been left waiting for a full day this year, 8,204 were aged over 75.

Mr McCallion, speaking on RTÉ News at One said overall hospital attendances have increased by 5pc since 2019. 

"We are seeing more people who are accessing care, perhaps who were restricted over recent years. We know general practice (GPs) in particular are very busy in recent times,” he said. 

"In our hospitals, they still have pathways for Covid and non-Covid patients and that impacts on the flow in hospitals number one, but there are also a number of other ways that, that impacts hospitals as well in terms of our utilisation of single rooms for infection, for people with Covid.”

Mr McCallion said the HSE has been dealing with staff absences of “several thousands” during different periods and this has impacted on the provision of emergency care also. 

Regarding the wait time for people aged over 75 years, Mr McCallion said it is “important” that older people are “managed through the system more quickly”.

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"None of our hospitals want any elderly person, particularly at the most important part ,potentially in their life in terms of when they’re ill, to have to wait for those sort of periods. From our perspective, that’s one of the key areas that we’re focusing on now in terms of trying to improve,” he said.

"We know that age is one of the factors in terms of impacting on health and that’s an area that all of our hospitals and our community systems will be focusing on as we move into what could well be a very difficult period of winter."

Mr McCallion added that hospitals will always offer care to those patients with the “greatest need first” and urged members of the public and older people in particular, to get the flu and Covid-19 vaccines.

His comments come as Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane has called for the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly to “lead from the front and produce his long awaited ED plan”.

"Presentations to ED’s is massively up which is in part due to Covid. Also signs of much higher presentations from older and frail patients with high acuity needs. A difficulty in accessing out of hours GP services is adding to the crisis in EDs,” he added.

Meanwhile. according the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s Trolley Watch figures, there were 446 patients waiting for a hospital bed nationwide this morning, with the longest waiting lists in Cork University Hospital (64), University Hospital Galway (57) and Sligo University Hospital (50).



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