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Package is targeted at Emergency Department crisis

20 Feb 2015

Rehabilitation beds to be opened in Louth County Hospital later this month

The situation currently in emergency departments (EDs) is “considerably worse” than it was at this time last year or the year before, the Minister for Health has said.

However, he insisted overcrowding in EDs eased over last weekend. “It has been going on for a number of weeks. We have put about 1,000 beds into the system — Fair Deal, Home Care Packages and additional transitional care beds. That obviously has not been enough,” said Dr Leo Varadkar.

“As a result, we will be redoubling our efforts over the coming weeks. That will involve 173 additional Community Nursing Unit (CNU) and step-down beds. In addition, there will be a number of other measures. There will be a media campaign to encourage people to make use of minor injury units, rather than EDs. These are underused, though many are available around the country.”

The target is to have no more than 70 people on trolleys for more than nine hours by the fourth quarter of this year.

When there was a surge of patients, it was not possible to predict when 300 patients may present, the Minister explained outside Newstalk Radio’s headquarters in Dublin last Sunday (February 15).

At the moment, the target was to free up as many beds as possible and to discharge as many people as possible.

“We are working very hard to manage the ongoing overcrowding situation in our Emergency Departments. In January, 500 transitional care beds were funded in private nursing homes and a further 250 beds have been funded in February, to assist in the discharge of patients from acute hospitals. [Some] 173 short-stay public beds are being opened across the country for a three-month period in response to potential additional admissions arising from the current flu virus. These include: Cuan Ross in Dublin, with the first ten opening next week; Fairview in Dublin; Farranlea Road in Cork; Galway, and Ballinasloe. Twenty-four private nursing home beds will come on stream in Drogheda.”

He added that arrangements were in place in the HSE to recruit front-line staff where it had been established that there was an urgent service requirement. Both the day and night shift nursing complements had increased in Beaumont, while 70 nursing posts had been agreed for the University of Limerick Hospital Group, 22 agency nurse conversions, 66 nursing posts, and additional HCA posts for Drogheda, and 39 posts for Naas. Staff rosters were also taking account of leave entitlements to ensure continuity of care.

A further 65 beds would be opened on a phased basis from April in Mount Carmel, with plans for rehabilitation beds to be opened in Louth County Hospital later this month. Up to 300 overflow beds have been opened and community intervention teams have been introduced in Naas and in Drogheda. “These have proved very effective at helping people to avoid hospital admission or to avail of early discharge, by managing their medical needs at home,” said Minister Varadkar.

Other actions include the diversion of patients with private health insurance to private hospitals where consultants have admitting rights, and the transfer of patients from acute hospitals to hospitals that manage non-complex care when the patients have been medically stabilised.

Hospitals have been asked to ensure that arrangements are made to continue discharging patients throughout the weekend and work continues with primary and community care providers to deploy home care resources to allow patients to be discharged from acute wards.

Teleconferences on the ED situation also continue seven days a week, while Level 2 hospitals were being utilised where possible to take the pressure off ED — something that was particularly effective in UL and Louth Meath Groups, added the Minister.

All non-urgent elective cases continued to be deferred to retain the focus on Emergency Departments, added Minister Varadkar.

Gary Culliton

Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times