The first three months of the year have been among the “worst” for hospitals coping with an influx of patients and infection control measures for Covid-19, HSE chief Paul Reid said today.
He said there are now plans to end the separate streaming of patients which were put in place by hospitals during the pandemic.
Mr Reid who was before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) was questioned on figures showing the average waiting time for a bed for patients over 75 on trolleys in emergency departments last month was almost 14 hours.
Committee chairman deputy Brian Stanley what action was being taken to relieve the pressures.
In response, Mr Reid said hospitals have seen one of the “worst quarters” since the start of the pandemic, and higher numbers of patients over 75 are presenting at emergency departments often with complex needs.
Mr Reid who was appearing before the committee with Department of Health Secretary General Robert Watt, was tackled on why so many areas of the health service are struggling to deliver for the public at a time of record funding.
Deputies raised the ongoing delays for children in need of mental health care, hospital waiting lists, delays in disability services, no dentists for medical card holders and problems in recruiting dentists to look after school children.
Independent TD Verona Murphy told Mr Watt: ”You are paid a large salary” and she questioned him on how he intended to solve the huge problems of the health service.
Mr Watt replied that it is his “job to solve problems”. Both men insisted the Sláintecare plan to deliver more services in the community outside of hospitals was the way forward.
Mr Reid rejected the accusation the health service was “third world” saying this was not the case and it was a tired cliché which did not help when they were trying to recruit staff.
The meeting heard there is now a flight of public health nurses and some complain they were not being allowed the flexible time which would allow them continue working.
The housing crisis is also impacting efforts to accommodate people with severe intellectual disability in need of residential care because their families can no longer cope.
The health service is also seeing an “avalanche” of demands for aids and appliances with one child waiting six months for a wheelchair.
Mr Reid said the HSE will see a deficit of more than €250.9m in the first quarter of the year with much of it driven by Covid-19.
He said the delayed care needs which built up during the pandemic will lead to further demands as the year progresses.
Mr Watt insisted his department has strong oversight of the HSE spending of its budget.