There must be something important happening to which I was not invited.
The number of patients attending emergency departments has increased this year with the result that the hospital system is currently operating at close to full capacity. HSE figures show that for the first ten months of 2019 the number of patients attending Cork University Hospital increased by 3.5% and the number of attendances of patients over the age of 75 increased by 6.9% compared to the same period in 2018. This reflects increasing demand for unscheduled care, especially by patients in the 75 years and over age group. A number of factors may affect the waiting times for older patients. In particular, people in the older age category presenting to emergency departments are more likely to have complex needs and to be admitted than the population generally.
In preparation for the anticipated increase in demand over the winter period the HSE's winter plan was launched on Thursday, 14 November. The Government provided an additional €26 million to fund the implementation of the plan. Nine winter action teams, each aligned to a CHO 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 now set out a range of initiatives it will undertake within its area to implement the plan. I am confident that with the immediate measures being undertaken under the winter plan and the strategic approach being taken by the Government, we will make progress in addressing the difficulties in emergency departments.
I share the Deputy's view that far too many people over the age of 75 are waiting far too long on hospital trolleys. I have conveyed clearly to the HSE that it must prioritise the care of older people in our emergency departments. The action teams must put in place the necessary care pathways for frail, elderly patients. We have allocated €26 million in this regard.
I reiterate that my opening comments were not related to this question, which is being covered ably by the Deputy, but to three other questions for which there was no Member in the Chamber.