Press Release

Minister Announces £25m Winter Initiative

Micheál Martin TD, Minister for Health and Children today (22 October 2000) announced a £25m investment package to help alleviate anticipated service pressures and to maintain services to patients in the acute hospital sector over the Winter period.

The investment package is being targeted at a number of key areas including:

  • Approval to recruit 25 additional Accident and Emergency consultants
  • Approval to recruit 15 additional consultant anaesthetists
  • Immediate provision of at least 500 additional nursing home places for patients who have completed the acute phase of treatment
  • Provision of additional aids and supports for older persons
  • Development of new acute assessment unit at St James’s Hospital, Dublin and the provision of a number of minor injury and respiratory units in the Eastern region

Hospitals providing Accident and Emergency services experience a seasonal increase in activity and a surge in admissions during the Winter months. This impacts significantly on the capacity of the acute hospital sector to provide sufficient acute beds for patients requiring admission. The appointment of additional consultants is designed to ensure early clinical intervention at a senior level, reduce waiting times and thus improve patient access.

A major factor affecting the ability of hospitals to provide beds for patients over the Winter period is the high number of acute beds which are inappropriately occupied by patients who have completed the acute phase of their illness. Many of these patients are elderly and require a further level of care in a more appropriate environment. The Minister said that the provision of additional nursing home places will help to reduce the effect of inappropriately placed patients on the acute hospital system.

The provision of medical appliances and aids is essential in facilitating the discharge of older persons from hospital and in reducing the level of hospital re-admissions. Additional funding is being provided as part of the investment package for the provision of a range of supports including walking aids, wheelchairs and special beds.

In addition, the Minister announced approval to a new development at St James’s Hospital, Dublin, which involves the provision of a new acute assessment unit for patients. The new unit will be located adjacent to the Hospital’s A&E Department and will provide for speedier consultant interaction and improved services for patients. It is anticipated that this will reduce the number of investigations as earlier intervention and diagnosis at more senior appropriate clinical level for patients will result in a shorter average length of stay for patients and more efficient use of the hospital beds.