Press Release

Minister rejects Deputy McManus’ criticisms

Micheál Martin, TD, Minister for Health and Children today (13 November, 2000) rejected Deputy McManus’ criticisms of the £25m investment package announced to help alleviate anticipated service pressures and to maintain services to patients in the acute hospital sector over the Winter period.

The initiative includes the contracting of over 500 additional nursing home places which will allow for a greater throughput of patients and will alleviate the pressures on the acute services over the Winter period. 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 in the older age category and require a further level of care in a more appropriate environment.

There are approximately 12,600 private nursing home places in the country of which approximately 7,100 are either subvented or contracted by health boards. The initiative which the Minister recently announced will provide at least 500 additional nursing home places over and above the 7,100 places. This represents a more than doubling of the number of additional places provided under previous initiatives. These places are being made available exclusively for patients from public hospitals who have completed the acute phase of their treatment in general hospitals and who require to be cared for in a less acute setting. Additional management resources have also been provided to enable health boards to manage this initiative to ensure the optimum use of the extra contracted places.

As part of the Winter initiative, the Minister has also provided £1.5 million this year for the purchase of medical aids and appliances for older people. This will facilitate the discharge of older persons from hospital and also support older people in remaining in their own homes. These supports will include a range of items, including walking aids, wheelchairs, special beds and other supports in the home.

Winter crises in recent years have pointed to the need to deal in a structured way with the workload on Accident and Emergency Departments. The Minister is anxious that these Departments be adequately resourced at consultant level in order to ensure the efficient management of emergency services, and to ensure early clinical intervention and decision-making for patients.

To this end 25 additional Accident and Emergency consultants will be appointed which will more than double the present complement. In addition, 15 anesthetist posts are also being created. These posts will be processed through Comhairle na nOspidéal as a matter of urgency.

It is intended that this enhancement of consultant-led services, together with the wider initiatives on dealing with inappropriate acute bed usage, investment in community services and improved assessment, admission and discharge planning in hospitals should avoid potentially unacceptable pressures on Accident and Emergency services. They will also contribute to the Government’s commitment to reducing waiting times and improve patient access. The Minister wishes to point out that the additional funding which he is now providing, represents the single greatest investment ever announced for the Accident and Emergency Services in this country and the alleviation of service pressures in the acute hospital sector.