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‘Challenging week’ for hospitals as flu cases peaking

The Chief Executive of the Health Service Executive has warned that hospitals around the country face “a very challenging week”, given the likely incidence of seasonal illnesses, such as influenza.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week programme, Bernard Gloster said it was expected that the coming week would see the height of the flu season, with further impact expected next week.

He said this would lead to significant pressure on the system.

“Week 51 of the year [2023] saw combined influenza notified cases of about 1,830.

“Week one of this year, not yet fully complete on figures, [is] 2,644.

“Based on all the information available to me we’re going to hit the height of the flu this week. That will tail on into the following week so we are expecting significant pressure on the system but at the moment we are holding relatively well.”

Mr Gloster said administrative changes in relation to staffing at hospitals are beginning to yield results, with increased weekend discharges and shorter admission waiting times.

He said measures had been put in place to ensure the health service was better able to deal with the impact of respiratory illness presentations and associated hospital outbreaks.

These include a direction to hospitals that – for the most part – only time-critical procedures should be scheduled over the coming weeks, with other treatments carried out between February and November.

He added that no two hospitals are the same and that although the HSE is focusing on maximum discharge at weekends there is still a long way to go.

He said some elective surgeries are being cancelled at the moment and he has told hospitals not to schedule any.

Death of Aoife Johnston

Mr Gloster said he hopes to meet Aoife Johnston’s family.

He said that there were serious failures in her case and added that so far there has been no finding against any individual at the moment.

An inquest into the death of Aoife is due to begin on 21 April in Limerick.

The teenager, who was from Shannon, Co Clare, died after a 12-hour wait in the UHL emergency department on 19 December 2022.

She was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis and developed sepsis.

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