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Tuesday 28 November 2023 Dublin: 3°C
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Flu levels are low, but we're about to enter 'an extremely busy time for the health service'

Demand for the GP out-of-hours service remains high and similar to last year.

GOOD WEATHER AND low levels of flu are keeping pressure off the health system, but that’s expected to change in the coming weeks.

The HSE Winter Plan Oversight Group, which met today, is warning that while hospitals have remained “very busy”, with increased patient attendances and admissions, there has been decrease in trolley waiting times compared to last year and, in the run up to Christmas, a sharp fall in delayed discharges.

Demand for the GP out-of-hours service remains high and similar to last year.

Last year was an ‘exceptional’ year for flu, a HSE spokesperson said, with high rates of hospitalisation, and the indications are currently positive for this year.

The rate of admissions for flu is still expected to increase in the coming weeks.

This is combined with presentations of older people to emergency departments, managing patients with chronic conditions, trauma, winter vomiting and severe winter weather, resulting in a predictably busy period for hospitals.

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Speaking to reporters this morning, Minister for Health Simon Harris stressed that it’s not too late for public to get the flu vaccine.

He noted that the initial figures on the number of health service staff getting the vaccine looked promising, and that an increase on last year is likely.

Harris added that it’s important over the busy period to “keep emergency departments for emergencies”, and for the public to use the appropriate service for their illness or injury, be it a GP service, primary care centre, minor units injury etc:

The best way you or I, as a citizen, can help our frontline staff, is by using those services appropriately.

Some of these frontline staff took to social media over the Christmas period to remind Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that they’re working unsociable hours during the holidays with the #WeAreWorking hashtag.

In November, the Taoiseach suggested that consultants should not take holidays in the first week of the year, particularly those who work in emergency departments, and that nurses should not take leave in the first two weeks of January.

“I appreciate that a lot of people have been working very hard in the health service across the Christmas period,” he told reporters, “I was there myself in the emergency department of the CUH on Christmas Day, and I visited Crumlin on Christmas Eve.

I have no doubt that a huge number of people were and are working very hard in our health service over the Christmas period in our health service. Our job is to make sure the whole system is working, for them and also for patients, that’s why we’re here today.

More advice on attending health services over the busy winter period is available here.

Additional reporting by Christina Finn

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