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 Beaumont Hospital increased by 0.9% and the number of attendances of patients over the age of 75 increased by 7.1% compared to the same period in 2018. However it should also be highlighted that the number of patients recorded as waiting on trolleys in Beaumont Hospital decreased by 1.6% this year compared to 2018 and have remained consistently low throughout 2019.
In relation to the Mater University hospital, HSE figures show that for the first ten months of 2019, the number of patients attending the Hospital increased by 2.5%, however, the number of attendances of patients over the age of 75 decreased by 1.6% compared to the same period in 2018.
The figures for both hospitals show the continued high level of demand for services at emergency departments.
The HSE Winter Plan was launched on Thursday 14 November in preparation for the anticipated increase in demand over the winter period. The Government has provided additional funding of €26m to support 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.
I acknowledge the challenges that are facing the emergency departments in our hospitals. In addition to the immediate measures being undertaken in the Winter Plan the Government through the Sláintecare Strategy is addressing the issues of access to healthcare. The Sláintecare Action Plan for 2019 has a specific workstream on access and waiting lists. The Government is also increasing investment in health infrastructure and capacity in the system in line with Project Ireland 2040.
I am confident that together with the more immediate measures being undertaken under the Winter Plan and the strategic approach undertaken by the Government under Sláintecare that progress will be made in addressing the difficulties in the emergency departments.