I wish to acknowledge the distress overcrowded EDs cause to patients, their families and frontline staff working in very challenging working conditions in hospitals throughout the country.
According to HSE TrolleyGAR data, there was a 3.2% increase in patients counted waiting on trolleys at 8am in Sligo University Hospital ED this year up to the end of October 2019 compared to the same period last year. My Department has engaged extensively with the HSE this year to identify mitigating actions to bring down trolley numbers and waiting times in the ED in the face of growing demand.
The HSE Winter Plan was launched on Thursday 14 November. The aim of the Winter Plan is to ensure that service providers are prepared for the additional external pressures associated with the winter period, including the prolonged holiday period, severe winter weather, seasonal influenza, and the spread of norovirus and other healthcare associated infections.
Nine Winter Action Teams, each aligned to a Community Healthcare Organisation and associated acute hospitals and Hospital Groups, have prepared Integrated Winter Plans. These plans focus on demand management and reduction, staffing availability, timely access to the most appropriate care pathway for patients, and appropriate timely discharge from acute hospitals.
The Integrated Winter Plan for Sligo University Hospital will be delivered by Winter Action Team 1 (WAT 1), whose membership includes the CEO of the Saolta University Health Care Group, the Chief Officer of CHO 1, and the CEO of Sligo University Hospital.
The HSE Winter Plan is supported by an additional €26m in winter funding nationally. This winter funding will support access to the Fair Deal scheme, and will provide additional home support and transitional care to facilitate timely hospital discharge and reduce congestion in EDs over the winter period.
Specific funding has been allocated to the Winter Action Teams to support initiatives at local level. The initiatives for WAT 1 include:
- added Medical Registrar for improved medical cover;
- rapid flu testing to reduce turnaround time to 2 hours;
- additional cleaning services to improve bed turnaround time out-of-hours;
- a reablement programme to decrease presentations and admissions;
- additional aids and appliances to facilitate timely discharge; and
- hospital avoidance measures to reduce the number of patients admitted for assessment.
The HSE is responsible for the delivery of public healthcare infrastructure projects and has advised that preliminary design work and site investigations have been carried out for the proposed new ward block development and additional bed capacity at Sligo University Hospital. Planning approval was granted in July 2019 and the project is currently at the detailed design stage.
It is important to recognise that all capital development proposals must progress through a number of approval stages, in line with the Public Spending Code, including detailed appraisal, planning, design and procurement, before a firm timeline or funding requirement can be established. The final decision to proceed with the construction of a project cannot be made until the tender process has been completed and the costings reviewed to ensure that the proposal delivers value for money and remains affordable, and that sufficient funding is available to fund the project to completion, including equipping and commissioning costs. The delivery of capital projects is a dynamic process and is subject to the successful completion of the various approval stages, which can impact on the timeline for delivery.