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Harris: HSE to announce details of 'winter ready' clinics next week

Innovative measures will be taken to reduce pressure on emergency departments over Christmas and the New Year.

They include 'winter ready' clinics where older and at-risk patients can go in advance of Christmas for a check-up, to receive the flu vaccine and get advice on managing chronic conditions.

Health Minister Simon Harris

Health Minister, Simon Harris, said the HSE will announce details of the clinics next week when the health authority is expected to set out the final details of its winter plan.

“Nobody wants a person, particularly an older person, to end up in an ED if that can be avoided,” he said.

They are also looking at extending the opening hours of primary care centres and minor injury clinics.

The winter plan was discussed today by the Emergency Department Taskforce and €30m has been allocated to alleviate pressure on the health service.

General secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, is disappointed that it has taken so long to produce the plan.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha, who was speaking on RTÉ radio, said “something huge” will have to be done about recruiting and retaining nurses and midwives so patients will have a bed when admitted to hospital.

Mr Harris said the ED taskforce is co-chaired by Ms Ní Sheaghdha, and it has met on a number of times since June.

Mr Harris said the winter plan is already “well and truly” underway but the focus of yesterday's meeting of the ED taskforce was on the period just after the Christmas break.

It is not just about making sure there are nurses and doctors in the public hospitals, it is about making sure they have access to diagnostics.

Mr Harris said they have asked the National Treatment Purchase Fund to “buy in” extra access to diagnostics over Christmas and the New Year and more beds will come onstream over the winter.

Mr Harris admitted that something needs to be done about the “pay equity” issue that affects hospital consultants appointed after October 1, 2012.

The Public Sector Pay Commission recommended that a process is put in place on how best to advance the matter.

I hope that Government can look at how best to proceed in the coming weeks,” he said.

The Irish Medical Organisation warned that failure to enter into talks will result in a ballot for industrial action.