Plan to cut hospital waiting lists as Covid eases being finalised by HSE

About 200,000 vaccine doses expired with many ineligible for them due to recent infection, briefing told

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the plan would build on previous work done within the Sláintecare process and be ready ‘within weeks’. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the plan would build on previous work done within the Sláintecare process and be ready ‘within weeks’. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

The Health Service Executive is finalising a multi-annual plan to cut hospital waiting lists, as Covid-19 pressures ease.

Chief executive Paul Reid said the plan would build on previous work done within the Sláintecare process and be ready “within weeks”.

The lifting of most restrictions earlier this month had given a great lift to health staff and the situation in hospitals and other services was now much better, Mr Reid told a media briefing.

A further 5,265 PCR-confirmed Covid-19 cases were reported on Thursday and 4,673 positive antigen tests were registered with the HSE. There were 708 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, down 31 in 24 hours, including 71 in ICU (down three).

Some 53 per cent of patients with the virus were there because of Covid-19, while 47 per cent had been admitted for a different illness but were subsequently diagnosed with Covid-19, Mr Reid said.

While this group is asymptomatic, the patients are also infectious, Mr Reid pointed out, and so require infection control measures.

About 4,800 HSE staff are off work due to Covid-19 infection or being a close contact, down 3,000 on two weeks ago.

Hospital Report

Confirmed cases in hospital Confirmed cases in ICU
214 25

Chief operating officer Anne O’Connor said hospitals were very busy, with attendances up 41 per cent last week on the same week last year, and 14 per cent on two years ago.

The use of surge capacity has increased and there were 571 delayed transfers of care last week.

Mr Reid enumerated the “learnings” made by the HSE over the period of the pandemic, which can now be built on for the future of the health service. There is greater integration between different services in acute public hospitals, the community and among GPs, pharmacies and private hospitals, he said.

In addition, the key role of public health teams came to the fore during the pandemic. Much had also been learned through the agility demonstrated by the health service during the pandemic, and there is now greater clarity on the role of the centre within the HSE as well as greater access for GPs to diagnostics.

Mr Reid said his priorities for the future were to build capability within the pandemic workforce and to prioritise waiting lists.

The multi-annual plan to improve access to care and reduce waiting lists will go to Government and the HSE board shortly, he said.

Other priorities include the further enhancement of community health networks, the consolidation of a single health service that includes the private sector as waiting lists are being addressed, and improved cybersecurity.

More than 200,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine have expired as demand dropped and many people were unable to receive them due to recent infection, the briefing heard.

Asked whether he thought the pandemic was at an end, Mr Reid said no one in healthcare was saying it was over. Yet the need for people to get back to normality was recognised, and there was never a more appropriate time for this than now.

Covid-19 might yet force a “recalibration” in the future but for now there was every reason to celebrate the lifting of restrictions.

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland six further people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19 have died, the North’s Department of Health said.

Another 4,243 confirmed cases of the virus were notified in the last 24-hour reporting period.

On Thursday morning, there were 387 Covid-19 inpatients in hospital in North, 22 of whom were being treated in ICU. – Additional reporting: PA