THE Winter Action Team for acute hospitals in Cork and Kerry plans to use part of a €1m funding allocation to purchase private hospital and community beds to alleviate overcrowding pressure.
Almost €1m has been allocated for a Winter Plan for Cork University Hospital (CUH), Mercy University Hospital (MUH), and University Hospital Kerry (UHK).
The allocation represents almost 15% of the acute Winter Plan budget set out by the Health Service Executive for the entire country.
The HSE’s Winter Plan will not open more acute hospital beds, but it will see some hospitals, including those in Cork and Kerry, buying private community and acute beds to speed up discharges and free up beds at the hospitals.
The €986,000 allocated to the Cork/Kerry team will also be put towards aids and appliances to assist in timely hospital discharges; the development of a frailty area to identify and facilitate early discharge; as well as more emergency department registrars to support patient flow and reduce the patient experience times.
It will also increase the spend available for improved medical cover, provide funding for the frailty intervention therapy team, and allow a discharge coordinator to facilitate patient flow processes.
The funding allocation comes after a difficult few weeks for Cork hospitals, particularly CUH.
Earlier this month, The Echo spoke to patients at Cork University Hospital’s emergency department, who described the chaotic scenes inside.
One man had been waiting for 18 hours to be seen, while another woman said she could not even find a seat to sit on in the waiting room.
Dr Conor Deasy, a consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH, told The Echo that staff at the hospital were “deeply concerned”.
“The staff abhor the inhumanity, indignity, and patient safety risk associated with treating patients who require an inpatient hospital bed, on the corridor of the emergency department,” he said.
“Immediate steps are vital.”
Last year, CUH was allocated €800,000 by the HSE to implement a number of measures to improve both patient flow and experience over the winter period.
Last year’s Winter Plan also included plans to purchase 10 beds in private nursing homes, along with a further 15 beds in private hospitals.
November 2018 saw more than 900 people on trolleys or in wards.
This year, CUH has seen more than 1,000 people in such a situation in three of the past four months.
Speaking in Cork in recent days, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “It’s important to acknowledge that, unfortunately, overcrowding is a year-round problem, not just a winter problem, and the Winter Plan is designed to ease the pressure on hospitals over the winter period.”
He said the additional resources allocated for hospitals by the HSE “will go into making sure that people can get out of hospital quicker”.
By the end of October, some 1.1m patients attended the HSE’s 29 Emergency Departments — a 3% increase on 2018. Almost 292,000 were patients admitted to hospital for further treatment and care.