The HSE has said planning health services for the rest of the year has been made very difficult a number of factors including the impact of covid-19, the war in Ukraine and a variety of recruitment challenges.
In its service plan for 2023, the health authority has sought to set out what practical changes patients should expect as the move from hospitals to community care continues.
It says it plans to tackle hospital overcrowding linked to spiralling emergency admissions, through illness prevention programmes.
One way it aims to do that is by getting people with chronic conditions more support through GPs, thereby preventing crisis points.
“In the full year 2023, the expectation is that between 16,000 and 21,000 patients will avoid emergency department (ED) attendance as a result of the programme,” the plan says.
GPs will also get more access to diagnostic scans instead of sending patients to EDs for these. The plan states:
Community-based integrated alcohol services in the Midwest and Cork/Kerry areas will also be expanded.
The plan also covers disability services, including delivering an additional 1,250 new day services for school-leavers, and five new respite services.
Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services (Camhs) should see shorter waiting lists through plans focused on children waiting longer than nine months.
Reforms recommended by the Maskey Report will continue. It is expected Camhs will receive 21,224 referrals this year.
Recruitment targets include an additional 6,000 staff which is “one of the largest ever annual increases in our staffing” the plan says.
“This additional 6,000 is only counted after we have recruited some 10,500 staff to replace those that will retire or leave during the year,” it adds.
However, the plan states the number of unfilled posts from last year and 2021 is higher than 6,000. It estimated this target as it matches the “maximum available labour market supply to be recruited within the year”.
Recruitment will be supported by the Safe Staffing Framework and other changes.
Infrastructure and equipment capital resourcing comes to €1.027bn. This includes €50m allocated for covid-19 in case of further waves of infection.
A surge plan remains in place with the National Ambulance Service. The overall fund also includes €14.5m for ambulance replacement and €65m for replacing equipment.
The plan says the new National Maternity Hospital will move to “phase 2” but does not clarify what this means. The HSE also commits again to supporting “the completion of the new Children’s Hospital”.
At the Oireachtas Health Committee on Wednesday, HSE CEO Bernard Gloster said: "We will now have to ensure that this investment is giving the maximum benefit to the public."