There is €26m for a winter plan to deal with emergency department overcrowding in acute public hospitals, Simon Harris, the health minister, has confirmed. Mr Harris attended a meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce this week where the focus was on the country’s busiest acute hospitals.
Over the past six weeks, six hospitals accounted for 49% of the morning trolley count — University Hospital Galway, University Hospital Limerick, University Hospital Waterford, Cork University Hospital, Mater Hospital, Dublin, and Letterkenny University Hospital, Co Donegal.
Mr Harris has asked the HSE to develop specific plans for the hospitals to manage emergency department overcrowding over the winter months. He confirmed there was €26m for a winter plan at the meeting, which discussed the priorities for funding, according to his spokesperson.
The taskforce is co-chaired by HSE deputy director- general, Anne O’Connor and Phil Ní Sheaghdha, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation. Chairman and co-founder of the Irish Patients Association, Stephen McMahon, who attended the meeting, said the specifics of the plan were not discussed.
Mr McMahon said the €26m was welcome, but he wanted a more detailed plan on how the money was going to be used to reduce the number of patients on trolleys. He said:
The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) has been allocated €100m in the budget, an increase of €25m compared to last year. As well as funding diagnostic scans, the NTPF will be supporting public hospital emergency departments but a spokesperson would not elaborate further.
The NTPF also published waiting list data for September when 568,769 patients were waiting for a first hospital outpatient consultation.
Mr McMahon said there had been “little movement” in the numbers waiting in recent months, but when compared to December 2018, there had been an increase of 52,607. “And for those waiting over 12 months, the number is up over 25,567.
“So the number of patients waiting is substantially up since the end of last year,” he said.
President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, Dr Donal O’Hanlon, said the decline of just 729 patients last month from the record high in August was “nothing to be proud of” and little comfort to the 568,769 people waiting to see a consultant last month.