Congested Emergency Departments a key concern this winter – HSE chief

Of particular concern was a 13 per cent increase in people aged over 75 being admitted to Emergency Departments, Stephen Mulvany said
Congested Emergency Departments a key concern this winter – HSE chief

Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA

Admissions to the State's Emergency Departments have increased by 5 per cent compared with 2019, the HSE’s chief executive said, as he warned that pressure on health services would increase over the winter months.

“The pressure on services is significant,” Stephen Mulvany said speaking at Dr Steevens’ Hospital about the HSE’s winter plan.

“A key challenge right now for the health service is the consistent and sustained increase of emergency attendance admissions to our acute hospitals, and the congestion that is causing in our emergency departments.”

More than a million people have attended Emergency Departments (EDs) so far this year, many of them frail, elderly people with very complex healthcare needs, he said.

There has been a 13 per cent increase in ED admissions of people aged over 75 years, which was of particular concern.

He encouraged people to consider all urgent care options as the pressure on the health service continues, including the 12 injury units across the country, out-of-hour GPs and pharmacists.

Mr Mulvany also advised citizens to take certain actions, asking that those eligible for a vaccine for Covid-19 or the flu to avail of it; to stay at home if they have symptoms; and to practise good coughing and hand hygiene etiquette as well as wearing a mask in some settings.

HSE operational update and Winter Plan
HSE chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry during a media briefing at Dr Steevens’ Hospital, Dublin (Brian Lawless/PA)

Damien McCallion, chief operations officer at the HSE, said that the 30,120 attendances to EDs last week was the highest on record for the year.

Mr McCallion said they are looking at ways to “enhance” community care, as well as emphasise injury units and out-of-hour GPs.

“Some of our sites are under sustained pressure, (with) a lot of improvement work going on to try and make sure we’re working as optimally as we can, with a particular focus on length of stay and patient experience,” he said.

Giving an update on Covid, chief clinical officer Colm Henry said there was no indication that the current dominant version of the Omicron variant poses a greater threat than previous variants of concern.

Dr Henry said the impact of Covid on the health service in the past two years coincided with “the advent of a new variant, Delta and Omicron”.

“Underlying seasonality of SARS-CoV-2 is not yet clear, but may well in time and because we only have the two years of experience, during winters, it may well resemble other respiratory viruses during winter. But it remains to be seen,” he said.

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