Press Release

Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Minister for Older People Jim Daly TD have welcomed publication of the Winter Plan 2018/2019

Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD and Minister for Older People, Jim Daly TD today (6th December) welcomed the HSE’s Winter Plan 2018/19.

The Government has committed significant resources to assist health services across the winter period and the publication of the HSE service plan outlining how those funds will be spent is to be welcomed.

Minister Harris said: “Overcrowding in Emergency Departments causes significant distress to patients, their families and front-line staff working in very challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country.

“While the coming months will be very challenging, this plan represents a system wide response to this challenge across the health service. It will be led at national and local level by integrated teams representing community and hospital services.”

The plan includes a four week period of focused action from 17 December until 13 January. During this period 9 key hospital sites, Mater, St, Vincents, Tallaght, Naas, Tullamore, Galway, Limerick, Cork University Hospital, Waterford, and their associated community healthcare organisations, will be targeted with a suite of enhanced actions.

Minister Harris said: “This is a new and innovative approach by the HSE and seeks to build upon the learnings from previous winters and the success in handling major events this year.

“Importantly the HSE plan optimises the use of existing resources and provides an alternative for patients to the Emergency Department including extended opening hours and expanded services at local injury units, services, minor injury units and key Primary Care Centres.”

The HSE has assured the Department that a significant public information campaign is underway to inform patients, their families and carers of these alternatives to emergency departments in their locality.

The Winter Plan will also seek to increase bed capacity in Q1 2019. Over the past 12 months, an additional 240 beds have been opened and work is nearing completion on a further 78 beds which are due to open in 2019.

Minister Harris said: “In addition to Winter funding, €10 million is being made available in 2019 to increase acute bed capacity. Further details will be included in the National Service Plan 2019. Taken together, these initiatives will increase the number of available in-patient beds in the acute hospital system to over 11,000, a threshold last seen in 2009.”

A central component of the Plan, which is already underway, is the provision of an additional 550 home care packages over the winter period, to help patients return home from hospital with the supports they need.

Minister of State with special responsibility for Older People, Jim Daly TD said: “A key focus for me this winter will be on the issue of delayed discharges and ensuring that those who should be at home will be at home.

“Hospitals provide vital services but they are not always the most appropriate location for elderly people. The allocation of €16 million for home care packages and additional aids and appliances is a significant assistance in helping people be at home during the winter period.”

The Winter Plan runs from the 1 December until the 31 March 2019 and full details are available on the HSE website.