I wish to acknowledge the distress overcrowded Emergency Departments cause to patients, their families, and frontline staff working in very challenging working conditions in hospitals throughout the country.
The hospital system is currently operating at close to full capacity. The number of patients attending Emergency Departments continues to increase year on year, with approximately 1.3 million attendances in 2018, up 3.5% on 2017. For the first four months of 2019, the number of patients attending hospital EDs increased by 6.5%, and the number of ED admissions increased by 4.4% compared to the same period last year. This reflects increasing demand for unscheduled care, especially by patients in the 75 years and over age group.
However, the National Service Plan 2019 includes an expected activity target that 99% of patients aged 75 and over attending at an Emergency Department are discharged or admitted within 24 hours. Therefore, any breach of this target in respect of patients in this age cohort is unacceptable.
With regard to the specific question the Deputy has asked, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond directly.