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Rise in Covid cases to ‘increase pressure on hospitals’

An increase in influenza and Covid-19 cases will lead to increased pressure on hospitals and the wider health service in the coming weeks, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has warned.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) said there has been a rise in the number of people with respiratory illnesses attending emergency departments this week.

Mr Donnelly said: “Frontline staff and management have worked together relentlessly over the Christmas period to ensure our hospitals worked as efficiently as possible, delivering an 80% reduction in patients on trolleys during this period.

“It is imperative that the laser-sharp focus the HSE has had over the Christmas period continues into January, when our emergency departments are under the greatest pressure.”

The minister urged the public to consider all care options, including their GPs, pharmacists, local injury unit and out-of-hours services before presenting at emergency departments.

Mr Donnelly thanked HSE workers for a reduction in the number of patients on trolleys in hospitals of 7.5% in 2023, compared to the previous year.

Trolley figures fall 20% in last six months

The number of patients on trolleys has also reduced by 20% in the last six months of the year, compared to the same period in 2022.

Over the Christmas weekend there were 80% fewer patients waiting on trolleys, compared to the same period in 2022.

Mr Donnelly said the progress was the result of a system-wide response right across the HSE, general practice, home care, pharmacies and nursing home sector.

He said: “While we still have too many patients on trolleys awaiting an in-patient bed, it is important to acknowledge that significant progress has been made this year, particularly since we moved to a year-round approach to urgent and emergency care in the latter half of the year.

“This is due to planned reforms as well as investment in increased bed capacity and staffing numbers over the last three years.

“Reforms are enabling the wider adoption of better processes that have been proven to work in many of our hospitals that consistently perform well.

“The urgent and emergency care operational plan focuses on four key areas – hospital avoidance, emergency department (ED) operations, in-hospital operations and hospital discharge.

“I’d like to thank all healthcare staff for their huge effort.”

The minister said he wanted to see further progress in 2024 in reducing waiting times for a hospital bed.

He said: “It is regrettable that any patient has to wait beyond an acceptable timeframe for a hospital bed.

“The evidence clearly shows the negative impact long waits in the emergency department can have.

“We need to see further progress in 2024.”

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