A TAILORED approach is needed to tackle the “completely unacceptable” waiting times in hospital emergency departments (EDs), Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said during a visit to Cork yesterday.
Mr Donnelly was speaking in the wake of new figures from the HSE, which showed that last month people over the age of 75 had to wait an average of 14 hours for admission to a bed from EDs.
The data, provided in reply to a parliamentary question from Sinn Féin’s health spokesperson, David Cullinane, showed that the average delay in Cork University Hospital (CUH) was 28.8 hours for that age cohort, while in the Mercy University Hospital (MUH) it was 26.8 hours.
Speaking to reporters after a visit to the Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Integrated Care Hub for older people, which is based at St Finbarr’s Health Campus, Mr Donnelly said such delays are inappropriate.
“It is never acceptable that anyone would be waiting those times,” Mr Donnelly said.
“The targets are about six hours. The Mercy and CUH are hitting that about half the time for about half the patients,” he said.
“I met with the Mercy team yesterday to say, ‘tell me what you need to make sure that the patients get seen, they get assessed, they get triaged, and then they get discharged… or admitted’. I’m going from here to CUH. We’re going to be having exactly the same conversation.
“I’ve had the same conversations in Limerick, in Sligo, in Galway, in various places.”
Mr Donnelly said he is engaging with the HSE to develop bespoke action plans for different hospitals.
“We need to go hospital by hospital, emergency department by emergency department, identify what the gaps there are, because they’re different.
“The problems in the Mercy are different to the problems in CUH, are different to the problems in Limerick. We need to understand exactly what it is. In one place it’s workforce, in another place it’s beds, in another place it’s late discharge of care.”
Speaking about waiting lists for healthcare services more generally, Mr Donnelly said tackling delays is “a top priority for the Government”.
Mr Donnelly said the new elective hospitals for Cork, Galway, and Dublin are going to be a “game-changer” and will “take a huge amount of the pressure off the model 4 hospitals”.
He confirmed that these new hospitals will have inpatient beds and that a decision on their locations is expected soon.
“I know it’s something that clinicians in Cork and elected politicians in Cork were very, very keen that in the second phase it is built such that there is extra inpatient capacity as well.
“That’s already been agreed. The next step is that in the next few weeks, I’ll be bringing a memo to government with a recommendation on sites.
“I can’t speak about the sites yet, because it’s something that government is going to have to sign off on.”
Speaking to The Echo, Cork North Central TD and Fine Gael’s health spokesperson, Colm Burke, said Cork’s new elective hospital will be critical in tackling healthcare waiting lists.
“If you look at the waiting lists in A&E both in the Mercy and in CUH, it was far longer waiting times in both of those facilities because they’re dealing with huge numbers. You can only deal with that kind of number by building additional facilities and we need to do it in the fastest possible time period,” he said.
Mr Burke reiterated his belief that Cork’s new elective hospital should be built at Sarsfield Court in Glanmire, the site recommended to the health minister as the preferred location for the hospital.