HEALTH Minister Simon Harris has refused to call the record number of people languishing on trollies in the country’s overcrowded hospitals following a serious flu outbreak a “national emergency”.
Mr Harris said hospital staff were under pressure which was “above and beyond” what was expected during a typical winter season due to the current outbreak of flu.
The minister said older people were especially vulnerable to the strain of flu which resulted in a massive 612 people left on hospital trollies today.
This is only the second time trolley numbers have gone past the 600 mark – the last time was January 2015.
Speaking a press conference this afternoon, Mr Harris said his predecessors called previous trolley crises “national emergencies” but inisted he was more focused on finding solutions for the problem.
“We can all come out with a soundbite or a buzz word to try and address the issue of the day but what is happening here is much more important,” he said
“Rather than having headlines about national emergencies or whatever else the headline and message I would like to get out today is the absolute importance of the vaccination and the absolute importance for all us as citizens doing everything we possibly can to minimise the spread of the flu,” he added.
He said “nobody could have prepared” for the outbreak of flu which is crippling services in the country’s hospitals.
The minister outlined a number of initiatives he plans to enact to tackle the overcrowding problem.
The moves include:
*Opening hospital diagnostic services until 8pm
*Reviewing the length of stay of patients who were admitted during Christmas period
*Support nursing homes staff so older people can be treated for flu on site.
*Give GPs direct access to consultants. Rather than having headlines about national emergencies or whatever else the headline and message I would like to get out today is the absolute importance of the vaccination and the absolute importance of all us as citizens doing everything we possibly can to minimise the spread of the flu
Mr Harris also said he was open to expanding the vaccination scheme to more people.
Responding, the HSE said as part of the key measures of the Winter Initiative to address increased demand for health services, the number of patients waiting to be discharged from hospitals has reduced to 436 by end December down from 659 in September and exceeding the Winter Initiatives target of 500 by year end 2016.
An additional €10 million in funding has been provided for homecare measures to help patients to leave hospital or to avoid hospital admission.
"The plan is delivering an additional 950 Home Care Packages (HCPs) targeting 10 specific hospitals from September 2016 to February 2017 including Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, Mullingar Hospital, Cork University Hospital, South Tipperary Hospital, Waterford University Hospital, University Hospital Limerick, Galway University Hospital, Tallaght Hospital & St.James’s Hospital and Beaumont Hospital.
"An additional 55 acute beds are being provided in hospitals. To date, beds have opened in Beaumont Hospital and in the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar. In addition, 18 step down beds are open in the Mercy University Hospital Cork
"Community Intervention Teams have been developed and expanded across the country. There are now 13 teams in place in to provide rapid and integrated care to patients. Additional funding has been provided to address orthopaedic and scoliosis waiting lists in Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin and Tallaght Hospital.
"€5m has been spent in on aids and appliances, with over 3,400 patients benefiting from provision of these aids and appliances to facilitate hospital avoidance/ hospital discharge since the beginning of October."