Speaking today, Ms Anne O Connor, HSE Deputy Director of General Operations, said: “Hospitals and Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs) submitted joint winter preparedness plans in September. Since then the focus has been on preparing, in so far as possible, to manage the anticipated service pressures this winter.
“Winter planning has been underway since mid-year and takes into account not only the learning from previous years but also the suggestions and advice of over 180 staff from hospital and community services around the country who attended a national Unscheduled Care (ED) Forum in September this year.”
Minister for Health Simon Harris and Minister of State for Older People Jim Daly welcomed the HSE’s Winter Plan 2018/19.
Minister Harris said: “Overcrowding in emergency departments causes significant distress to patients, their families and front-line staff working in very challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country.
“While the coming months will be very challenging, this plan represents a system wide response to this challenge across the health service. It will be led at national and local level by integrated teams representing community and hospital services.”
The plan focuses on: Preparedness of the entire health system to deal with winter pressures from 1 December 2018 to 31 March 2019 including: Increased number of patient attendances at emergency departments, increased number of patients requiring hospital admission, infection outbreaks in health service and wider community, heightened requirements for isolation due to infection prevention and control requirements, high hospital bed occupancy rates (currently 95-100 per cent) and increased numbers of patients in acute hospitals whose discharge is delayed.
Support for community and acute operations includes €10.6 million for 550 additional home support packages; €4 million for aids and appliances; €1.5 million to support access to transitional care beds; 66 additional community beds*; four additional rehabilitation beds*; 75 additional acute beds*; four-week period of enhanced measures targeted at nine “sites of concern”.
The nine sites and associated CHO are Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and CHO 9; St. Vincent’s University Hospital and CHO 6; Tallaght University Hospital and CHO 7; Naas General Hospital and CHO 7; Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore and CHO 8; Galway University Hospital and CHO West/CHO 2; University Hospital Limerick and CHO MidWest /CHO 3; Cork University Hospital and Cork Kerry Community Healthcare/CHO 4; University Hospital Waterford and South East Community Healthcare/CHO 5.
These sites together with their community partners “will be the focus of intense monitoring and oversight” for the four-week period identified (7 December to 13 January), outlined the HSE.
A Winter Action Team has been established for each of the sites and funding has been provided for enhanced measures to support the sites during the focus period, according to the Executive.
The enhanced measures include: FITT Teams to support frail elderly patients, extended availability of diagnostics, extended opening hours of Acute Medical Assessment Units, additional senior decision makers on site and the provision of ‘winter ready services’ for at-risk patients including patients with chronic illnesses.
Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE National Clinical Advisor Acute Hospitals, said; ‘More than 60 per cent of people over 50 are living with a chronic condition such as asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart failure. They, along patients living with cancer and immunosuppression, are more vulnerable to infection and need to protect themselves with vaccination against flu and pneumonia. We know that 20 per cent of winter admissions are due to chest infections and prevention is always better than cure. Handwashing is vitally important as viruses can live for days on surfaces and our hands then bring the bugs to our faces, which can lead to winter vomiting or flu. Every time you wash your hands you protect yourself.”
*66 Community Beds
40 Mount Carmel Dublin – Q2 2019
15 Belvilla Nursing Home, Dublin – Q4 2018
3 District Hospital Abbeyleix, Co. Laois – Q1 2019
4 Royal Hospital Donnybrook – Q1 2019
4 Rehabilitation Beds
National Rehabilitation Hospital, Dublin
75 Acute Beds
5 Cork University Hospital – Q1 2019
3 South Infirmary Cork – Q1 2019
8 St Colmcilles Loughlinstown – Q1 2019
6 Tallaght University Hospital – Q1 2019
4 Galway University Hospital – Q1 2019
4 Merlin Park Hospital Galway – Q1 2019
6 University Hospital Waterford – Q1 2019
6 Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore – Q1 2019
8 University Hospital Limerick – Q1 2019
5 Letterkenny University Hospital – Q1 2019
20 Connolly Hospital – Q1 2019