File image of Health Minister Stephen Donnelly Alamy Stock Photo

Health Minister unable to commit to HSE trolley target over the winter months

Under a recently published HSE plan, no more than 320 people should be waiting for beds on trolleys each day.

HEALTH MINISTER STEPHEN Donnelly has said it is “difficult to predict” where trolley figures will go over the winter months and that there will be a “very high level of demand”.

While he was unable to commit to reaching HSE targets on the number of people waiting for beds on trolleys, he said the health service will do “everything they can”.

In July, the HSE’s Urgent and Emergency Care Operational Plan was published.

Among its targets was that no patient aged over 75 will wait for more than 24 hours in an Emergency Department.

Another target was that hospitals would not exceed 440 cases of delayed transfers of care at one time, and that no more than 320 people should be waiting for beds on trolleys each day.

According to the INMO’s Trolley Watch figures, there were 546 admitted patients waiting for beds this morning, including 396 patients in the emergency department, and 150 in wards elsewhere in the hospital.

Speaking to reporters today, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly acknowledged that “the number of patients on trolleys today is too high”.

He added that it is “too high on an ongoing basis”.

However, he said that a “relatively small number of hospitals are accounting for a very sizable portion of the patients on the trolleys”.

According to today’s INMO Trolley Watch figures, 91 patients were waiting for beds in University Hospital Limerick this morning, followed by 66 at Cork University Hospital.

“We have targeted interventions in place in Limerick, Galway, Cork, Kerry, in some of the Dublin hospitals where these issues are most severe for patients,” said Donnelly.

He added: “What’s most important to me is the patients on trolleys who are in an inappropriate setting, be that a corridor or in a ward where adding that extra patient is causing difficulties.”

Donnelly also said that the “reality” is that there is going to be a “very high level of demand” through the winter.

The Health Minister added that vaccination can help with the numbers of patients on trolleys.

“There’s something we can all do,” said Donnelly.

“As healthcare workers, we had very high levels of vaccines a few years ago, but they dropped last year and are still too low this year.

“They’re higher than they were last year, but we really need all health care workers to get vaccinated.”

“And then anyone who’s in the target groups both for the COVID vaccine and the flu vaccine.

“My ask would be that they go and get themselves vaccinated, it’s all free, it’s available in pharmacies all over the country.”

When pressed on whether it is possible for trolley figures to get below 320 over the winter months, Donnelly said: “They’re going to do everything they can.

“I think it’s very difficult to predict what the impact is going to be.

“We’re doing some things which are entirely new, there are some new protocols in place, so it’s difficult to predict exactly where it’s going to go.

“But I want to make sure, particularly in the small number of hospitals that are under the greatest pressure, that everything that we can do for them is done and that the greatest number of people get vaccinated as well through the winter.”

-With additional reporting from Eimer McAuley

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