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Hospitals’ response to Covid-19 ‘hindered by longstanding problems’ – HIQA

By Catherine Reilly - 10th Aug 2021


While the Irish hospital system “adapted swiftly” to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic, reoccurring underlying issues of concern relating to non-compliance with national standards were evident, according to HIQA. These issues included poor physical infrastructure, capacity issues and workforce challenges.

Today HIQA has published an overview report of the monitoring and regulation of healthcare services in 2020. Throughout the year, HIQA focused its healthcare monitoring resources on known areas of risk, with a particular focus on the management of Covid-19 across public acute hospitals, and rehabilitation and community inpatient services.

These areas included infection prevention and control, governance and risk management, and medication safety. HIQA also continued to advance its newer role in regulating medical exposure to ionising radiation.

HIQA’s monitoring and regulatory activity in 2020 continued to identify that good governance and leadership is the first line of defence when providing safe, high-quality and reliable healthcare, particularly in response to the crisis situation posed by the global pandemic.

While HIQA has seen progress and improvement in achieving compliance with standards across various areas monitored, the many challenges since the onset of Covid-19 in early 2020 has put extreme pressure on every service.

Despite an increase in both temporary and longer term investment in services in response to the pandemic, some healthcare services “continue to be proportionately less resourced than others”. In many hospitals, ongoing challenges posed by poor physical infrastructure and constrained service capacity continued to be identified by HIQA. These issues have been worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

HIQA’s Director of Regulation Ms Mary Dunnion said: “The Covid-19 pandemic required HIQA to change our inspection plans in 2020 to focus on the challenges posed by the pandemic. In most instances, we found an effective approach to adapt to this unprecedented crisis in hospitals.

“However, hospitals’ efforts were made more difficult due to underlying historic problems with infrastructure, limited bed capacity and unequal or limited access to specialist workforce input and advice – problems that HIQA’s prior monitoring work against national standards has consistently highlighted.”

HIQA stated it is supportive of the Sláintecare reform plans. “The need to implement these plans will be even more important for patients as Ireland emerges from the pandemic. Complementary to this key reform effort, in 2022 HIQA will implement a new monitoring programme to drive improvements across all healthcare services.”

HIQA’s Head of Healthcare Mr Sean Egan said: “The pandemic has further reiterated that a high performing, fit for purpose healthcare service that is compliant with national standards is required to meet Ireland’s needs now and into the future.

“HIQA remains committed to supporting continual and sustainable improvement across the healthcare services that we have a remit for monitoring or regulating. We intend to enhance our approach to future monitoring against national standards, to further support recovery and reform of services as we emerge from the pandemic.

“In doing so, HIQA will continue to work closely and openly with all stakeholders and interested parties to advance the quality and safety of care for people who use healthcare services in Ireland.”

The full report and infographic are available at

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