Health Minister claims to have 'very ambitious winter plan' to combat hospital overcrowding

Health Minister claims to have 'very ambitious winter plan' to combat hospital overcrowding

The Health Minister claims he has "a very ambitious” plan to deal with hospital overcrowding over the winter months.

The number of admitted patients on trolleys awaiting beds in emergency departments and on wards topped winter levels earlier this month.

There were 544 admitted patients waiting in EDs and on wards last Wednesday, with University Hospital Limerick the worst-hit with a record high of 76 patients without a bed.

UHL again had 76 patients on trolleys waiting for a bed today according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

A total of 489 patients were waiting for beds in the country's acute hospitals and among the worst hit was University Hospital Waterford that had 40 patients waiting.

According to the HSE's TrolleyGAR, 381 patients were waiting in EDs today, with 185 waiting more than nine hours and 61 waiting for more than 24 hours.

The health authority points out that the number of patients on trolleys has increased by almost 30% compared to the same day last year when there were 297 waiting.

Mr Harris said he is concerned about the level of hospital overcrowding and his focus of concern is the level of delayed discharges – patients who no longer need acute care.

Both he and his ministerial colleague, Jim Daly, Minister of State with responsibility for older people have been meeting regularly with the HSE to address the issue of delayed discharges.

Mr Harris said he understands that the chief executive of the HSE, Paul Reid, took several measures last week to “drive down” the number of delayed discharges.

Measures taken include more transitional care arrangements and the availability of other supports to reduce pressure on the hospital system.

“We will have a very ambitious winter plan,” said Mr Harris. That plan will see a “significant” number of hospital beds opened at the start of next year.

“We are finalising that figure and I expect it to be significant,” he said. The extra beds would be in addition to the normal package of supports.

Mr Harris said the level of flu in Australia is concerning but he cautioned against reading too much into what is happening on the other side of the world.

At this stage, he said, it is difficult to predict Ireland's flu season which starts next month.

The seasonal flu vaccine covers four types of the virus for the first time.

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