The hospital system is currently operating at close to full capacity. The number of patients attending Emergency Departments continues to increase year on year. HSE figures show that for the first ten months of 2019, the number of patients attending Emergency Departments nationally increased by 2.7% while the number of admissions increased by 0.9% compared to the same period in 2018.
However, the National Service Plan 2019 includes an expected activity target that 75% of all patients attending at an Emergency Department are discharged or admitted within 6 hours and any breach of this target is unacceptable.
Recently, Children’s Health Ireland (CHI) saw an increase in the number of young children and infants presenting to their Emergency Departments (EDs). Any long waiting time for children and their families is regrettable.
The HSE have advised that the increase in numbers is in part a result of higher rates of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract, as well as flu and norovirus (known as the winter vomiting bug), all of which circulate at this time of year.
The HSE Winter Plan was launched on Thursday 14 November in preparation for the anticipated increase in demand over the winter period. The Government allocated an additional €26m to fund the implementation of the Plan. 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. Each Action Team has set out a range of initiatives it will undertake within its area to implement the Plan.
With regard to the Deputy's specific question, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly with the requested information.