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Covid-19 pandemic has left already struggling hospitals worse off - Hiqa report

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The Covid-19 pandemic has left some hospitals which are struggling with lack of staff and cramped conditions worse off, a new report revealed today.

Despite record levels of money being pumped into the health service to tackle Covid-19 it has not been shared equally and some areas have lost out.

The patient safety watchdog ,the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa), said while the Irish hospital system adapted swiftly to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, reoccurring underlying issues of concern relating to non-compliance with national standards were evident.

It comes at a time of major investment in the health service triggered by the pandemic.

In an overview of its 2020 inspections it said that poor physical infrastructure, capacity issues and workforce challenges, which often hindered these very significant efforts.

While” Hiqa has seen progress and improvement in achieving compliance with standards across various areas monitored, the many challenges since the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020 has put extreme pressure on every service.

“Hiqa has noticed that despite an increase in both temporary and longer term investment in services in response to the pandemic, some healthcare services continue to be proportionately less resourced than others.

“ In many hospitals, ongoing challenges posed by poor physical infrastructure and constrained service capacity continued to be identified by Hiqa. These issues have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic. “

The inspections looked at areas such as infection prevention and control, governance and risk management, and medication safety.

Hiqa’s Director of Regulation, Mary Dunnion said: “The Covid-19 pandemic required Hiqa to change our inspection plans in 2020 to focus on the challenges posed by the pandemic.

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“In most instances, we found an effective approach to adapt to this unprecedented crisis in hospitals. However, hospitals’ efforts were made more difficult due to underlying historic problems with infrastructure, limited bed capacity and unequal or limited access to specialist workforce input and advice - problems that Hiqa’s prior monitoring work against national standards has consistently highlighted.”

Hiqa said it is supportive of the Sláintecare reform plans which is the blueprint for the future of the health service and aimed at ending the two tier system.

“The need to implement these plans will be even more important for patients as Ireland emerges from the pandemic.

“ Complementary to this key reform effort, in 2022 Hiqa will implement a new monitoring programme to drive improvements across all healthcare services. “

Hiqa’s Head of Healthcare, Sean Egan said: “The pandemic has further reiterated that a high performing, fit for purpose healthcare service that is compliant with national standards is required to meet Ireland’s needs now and into the future.”

“We intend to enhance our approach to future monitoring against national standards, to further support recovery and reform of services as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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