The HSE’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic last year required a “more sustained diversion of resources from other areas of healthcare than … anticipated,” according to the Executive’s Chair Mr Ciarán Devane.
The admission is made in Mr Devane’s foreword to the HSE’s Annual Report and Financial Statements 2021, which were published today (Tuesday 21 June).
“Due to the prevailing environment, we faced significant challenges in delivering on our National Service Plan targets,” according to Me Devane.
“A number of factors contributed to this, most notably the third wave of Covid-19 infection which emerged in December 2020 and dominated well into the first half of 2021.”
Mr Devane stated that some of the key activity levels and targets for 2021 as set out in the service plan were revised during the year “to ensure the best use of resources in the context of the ongoing pandemic and the cyberattack”.
He wrote that the cyberattack on 14 May 2021 had a “hugely detrimental effect on our healthcare system, which was already under significant pressure from the impact of Covid-19”.
“It exposed weaknesses in our ICT infrastructure and highlighted the need for substantial investment,” according to the foreword.
“The attack resulted in widespread disruption across all services. We will continue to develop, implement and monitor improvements in the security and resilience of critical national infrastructure for the provision of essential services, ensuring an improved rapid response is available to these threats when they occur.
“Engagement has begun with the Department of Health with a view to agreeing a multi-year ICT and cyber security transformation programme to strengthen our resilience and responsiveness in this area and reduce the potential impact on care for patients and service users in the future.”
In his statement, HSE CEO Mr Paul Reid wrote that due to the success of the national vaccination programme, the health service is moving “progressively away from a crisis response”.
By the end of 2021, 95.1 per cent of the adult population and 77.8 per cent of the total population had received their primary vaccination, and over 2.25 million booster doses had been administered.
“Having said that, we cannot become complacent and in the medium term we will maintain an ability to scale-up our workforce to support the changing disease trajectory,” according to Mr Reid.
“Although the climate in which we provide services has changed significantly, including our support to Ukrainian nationals arriving in Ireland due to the current conflict, our mandate to safeguard the health and welfare of the public has not changed.
“We must engage all available channels (including collaboration with Section 38 and 39 organisations, academic institutions, and the private sector) torestore services and minimise unacceptable waiting times.
“As we look ahead, we take with us the learnings of 2021, such as the Brandon Report and the HIQA report of governance arrangements of gynaecology services at Letterkenny University Hospital. We are translating the findings from these reports into lessons learned to ensure that such instances are not replicated elsewhere and to further refine how we deliver care to the highest quality and safety levels.”
The report and accounts highlight the key health and social services provided by the HSE in 2021 out of a budget of €21.643 billion, including funding to non-statutory agencies of €5.691 billion.
In 2021, almost 1.6 million people received inpatient or day case treatment, with over one million of these on a day-case basis.
Over 3.2 million people attended outpatient departments and there were over 1.3 million emergency department attendances.