The acting chief operations officer for the HSE, Damien McCallion has outlined plans by the health service to combat the anticipated increased demand on services this winter from Covid and flu.
The HSE is trying to plan ahead on the basis of “all possible scenarios”, he told RTÉ News at One. In previous years difficulties in Australia have been repeated in Europe and there have been high hospital admissions during the current winter in Australia.
The focus this winter will be on community care and on keeping patients in the community, he explained. An extra 750 staff were being recruited to enhance community care along with other measures.
There were four key measures, he said – vaccination, for Covid-19 and influenza; additional bed capacity; avoidance and increased flow of operations in hospitals from when patients are admitted through to their discharge
Mr McCallion was responding to a new report which indicated that 25,000 patients had waited more than 24 hours for treatment in the first five months of this year. Of that 25,000, 8,000 were aged over 75 which was a cause for concern, he acknowledged.
Covid continued to have an impact on the health service, he said as the virus necessitated two separate pathways for admission – for Covid and non-Covid patients, infection measures also required single rooms for patients and the virus also had an impact on staffing levels.
A further issue was community outbreaks of Covid which meant a shortage of beds in nursing homes to which patients could previously have been discharged.
Staff at accident and emergency departments would continue to prioritise patients on the basis of the nature of their illness and where and when possible would prefer to treat older patients as a priority.
The HSE did not want a situation where patients were left “for an inordinate amount of time” before being admitted, but very often such decisions were down to the pressures on the hospital on any given day.