Health Minister Simon Harris has admitted that long waits at the A&E are “inevitable” this winter period as our hospitals are more overcrowded than in history.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation recently reported that this November was the worst in history for patients waiting on trolleys.
For the first time since records began there have been more than 100,000 patients left on trolleys, with University Hospital Galway one of the worst in Ireland.
There were nearly 700 patients on trolleys at UHG in November, with the yearly total set to sail past 7,000 by Christmas.
Speaking on Newstalk’s On The Record, Simon Harris asked people to avoid using the A&E for any non emergency complaints.
“I do need and ask for the support of everybody this winter period in terms of keeping our emergency departments for emergencies,” he said.
“And we use alternatives where available. We’re going to be extending the opening times for our primary care centres and minor injury units.”
The Minister has said that his department was trying to “break the cycle” of a surge in people on trolleys at the A&E come January by increasing the number of beds available and adding more homecare packages.
This comes on the back of a recent demand by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for more medical staff to work at hospitals over the Christmas period.
Minister Harris said that hospitals have set their rosters for the holiday season by now, and will be adequately staffed.
The Minister also said that it was a common “myth” that long waiting times and being left on a trolley are the norm for patients going through hospital.
He pointed to a recent National Patient Experience Survey which he said shows that of the 1.4 million who have gone through the A&E, 79% of people said they had a good experience.
But Galway’s hospitals are well below the national average with just 58% of people discharged from UHG and Merlin Park Hospital rating their experience as good.
A hospital “tsar” will be appointed to oversee the HSE’s winter plan, with UHG one of nine hospitals of specific concern being targeted.