The HSE’s Winter Plan 2020/20201 has been supported with an allocation of €600 million, it has been announced.
It is proposed to open an additional 251 acute beds and 89 sub-acute beds in the three months of 2020 and an additional 232 acute beds at the beginning of next year.
The ongoing provision of Covid-19 community assessment hubs and the extension of these to incorporate the treatment of acute respiratory illness via acute respiratory assessment and treatment hubs are also outlined in the plan.
There are currently seven community assessment hubs operation within five community healthcare organisations with a further three on standby to open should demand increase.
The plan is to have 20 hubs in total available from January to March.
Regarding staff recruitment, the plan states: “It’s expected that recruitment activity levels will continue to rise as the HSE implements this plan, thus, a major national and international campaign to attract talent will be implemented.”
HBS Recruit has capacity to manage 5,000 appointments annually with an average time to hire of 19-23 wks. During Covid-19, HBS Recruit increased volume output “significantly” using a scaled back recruitment process with standard job specifications, shorter application forms, reduced timeframes and reduction in clearance requirements prior to appointment.
Increased supports to promote staff wellbeing will also be in place due to increased absenteeism and anticipated doubling of occupational health management referrals due to staff exhaustion, and post Covid-19 fatigue.
This initiative includes the integration of six key staff supports namely occupational health, staff health and safety; staff mental health; rehabilitation of injured and sick staff; organisational health and staff personal health.
The plan also notes the importance of maximising the uptake of the flu vaccine amongst healthcare workers is an absolute priority for the upcoming autumn period.
The Office of the Chief Information Officer will support services in the implementation of “key technology enabled solutions as articulated by the services that are required for maintaining the Covid-19 response, underpinning key winter pressure initiatives and facilitating a return to business in an integrated care environment”.
A total of 28 technology projects are outlined in the plan, including one on national waiting list management.
Announcing the plan, HSE CEO Mr Paul Reid said: Speaking today CEO of the HSE Mr. Paul Reid said:
“This winter is going to be more difficult than any we’ve ever faced before. We are living with Covid-19, we are living differently, however we have planned differently and we have to take confidence in our Winter Plan. By ensuring agility and innovative healthcare measures, we can prioritise the health and wellbeing of our staff and the public, through the provision of healthcare pathways in the community and in our hospitals.
“I am asking the public to follow the public health advice, the worst thing we can do is to get complacent. I am also asking those within the priority groups to ensure they get the flu vaccine and give themselves the best opportunity to stay well this winter.”
On the plan’s launch, HSE Chief Operations Officer Ms Ann O’Connor said:
“For the forthcoming winter period, we are focusing on the resumption of health services, while preparing for the expected pressures associated with winter and delivering services in the context of the continuing presence of Covid19. Guidance, new processes, and infrastructure, will be critical to supporting the resumption of service delivery.
“In addition, a Community First approach to the delivery of care will be central to delivering safe, efficient and effective services through winter and beyond. Service delivery will be re-oriented towards general practice, primary care and community-based services.”