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Mixed Views On HSE’s Record €600 Million Winter Plan

MIXED views have been expressed by local deputies about the provision of a record €600 million for the government’s 2020/21 Winter Plan.

The importance of providing an effective Winter Plan was illustrated on September 16 when 80 patients in University Hospital Limerick (UHL) were without a bed, which was the highest figure recorded in an Irish hospital since Covid-19 restrictions began.

This resulted in at least eight vulnerable elderly patients being left on chairs in UHL.

The INMO has called for urgent intervention from the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly with the immediate appointment of an external crisis management team to oversee governance at the hospital

Deputy Violet-Anne Wynne described the Winter Plan as a “wish list” lacking in detail, targets and timelines for staff recruitment and bed delivery.

“It falls far short on the number of beds and staff required to safely deliver Covid-19, non-Covid-19, and catch up care in the coming months.

“Our plan, which I launched in early August, would deliver 1,100 additional acute and sub-acute beds and 50 ICU beds this year, €40 million to kickstart cancer care, and bring on an additional 2,500 staff ahead of winter, not after.

“The Government plan will only deliver 251 acute beds and 89 sub-acute beds in 2020 and 232 acute beds in early 2021.

“The 17 ICU beds proposed is far short of what is needed. Additional ICU beds in early 2021 will be crucial but no target has been set.”

She claimed the HSE admits the so-called “new” beds will only mitigate Covid-19 related capacity shortfalls, not meet demand.

Without clear commitments and rapid recruitment, she warned this plan will not relieve the burden on overworked burned out staff.

“There are no mentions of disability services and mental health services, and no funding to kickstart cancer services this year.

“We welcome the investment in occupational welfare supports for frontline staff, investment in community care and community intervention teams, and the winter flu expansion.”

Deputy Cathal Crowe said the Winter Plan needs to be considered in the context of the current health care crisis with the expenditure of an additional €600, the largest ever mid term injection for health services.

In addition to the doubling of acute beds, Deputy Crowe said there will be an increase in rehabilitation beds with the capacity to have 100,000 Covid-19 tests every week and 1.5 million people receiving a ‘flu vacine.

“We need to invest heavily in improving services at University Hospital Limerick and Ennis Hospital not just in the winter months but going forward.

“The Winter Plan gives hospital management the scope to plan effectively for the next four months. However, we need a more long term plan for Ennis Hospital and UHL,” he outlined.

“The obvious way to alleviate pressure in UHL is to finance improvements in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospital, Limerick. We need more consultants West of the Shannon.

“There will be bad days in the hospital during the winter as that has become an unfortunate trend over the last few years. This funding will help address this problem.

“It will not be a panacea for everything but it will certainly help. Beyond the Winter Plan and Covid-19, there is a need for more investment in the Mid-West, which is the most pressurised group of hospitals in the country,” he added.

Dan Danaher

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