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'Significant' increase in the number of over-75s attending emergency departments

There has been marked increase in general in the number of people attending EDs and being admitted to hospital compared to the same time last year.

Image: Shutterstock/VILevi

THERE WAS A significant increase in the number of over-75s attending emergency departments last week compared to the same time in 2018, according to new figures released by the HSE.

And while the overall number of people attending EDs and being admitted to hospital was down compared to the previous week, it still represented a marked increase on the previous year.

The figures, covering December 18 to December 24 and presented this afternoon at a meeting of the HSE’s Winter Oversight Group, reveal that 25,584 people attended EDs – down 4.9% on December 11 to December 17 but up 14.2% on the same time in 2018.

Of these, 6,810 people were then admitted to hospital – down less than 1% on the previous week but up 6.9% on the previous year.

PastedImage-70330 Source: HSE

Within this, there was a spike in the number of over-75s attending, up 10.7% on the previous week, and up almost 25% on 2018.

“That, for us, is a very significant shift,” the HSE’s chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said.

The important thing about this is that when we have people who are over 75 coming into hospital, they stay for longer… they will stay, on average, for 10 to 15 days instead of five to 10 days, and that has a bearing on how people can move through our hospitals.

PastedImage-52480

The HSE has previously flagged that the flu season came four weeks earlier this year than expected, but there is hope that the number of patients presenting with influenza has reached its peak. Week-on-week, the number of cases is down from 1,005 to 867.

However, O’Connor stressed that as activity picks up in hospitals after the Christmas holiday, more flu testing will be carried out, and this figure might not represent a true decrease.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that the increase in the numbers of over-75s attending will ‘add pressure’ to the hospital system, but that he “very satisfied that the incredibly dedicated staff are doing everything they can”.

“When I hear doctors rightly say, ‘we need more capacity, we need more doctors’, I agree with [them],” he added, stressing that he plans to hold talks in January with doctors to discuss ways of boosting recruitment and retainment.

Minister Harris added that in some cases of flu, the patient will be able to effectively treat themselves at home, and it’s best to visit UnderTheWeather.ie before adding your GP or, if needed, an ED.

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Nicky Ryan

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