Wednesday 16 January 2019

Emergency departments at breaking point, but 'it's not a crisis', says minister

Simon Harris admitted hospitals are facing challenging times
Simon Harris admitted hospitals are facing challenging times

Emergency departments are at breaking point as a flu epidemic combined with severe overcrowding saw numbers presenting to hospitals double in the past week.

The HSE has confirmed that one person has died as a result of flu this winter - the predominant AH3 flu strain which affects mostly older people.

The crisis has worsened as a result of the winter vomiting bug and a spike in the number presenting with respiratory illnesses.

According to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, there has been a "doubling" in outbreaks of influenza in care facilities and acute hospitals, particularly in the Dublin reg-ion.


The HSE is now warning those who are vulnerable and have not received vaccinations to do so immediately. Hospitals have asked anyone with flu symptoms not to attend emergency departments.

The HSE yesterday confirmed the latest report from the HSPC shows "an almost doubling of the influenza-like illness rate (ILI) to 46.7, compared with 25.8 for the previous week. The ILI rate is expected to increase further in the coming weeks."

Tallaght Hospital is among those that have seen a high level of emergency admissions for flu cases in recent days .

"The hospital's full capacity protocol is in place and the public are asked to attend their GP in the first instance where appropriate," hospital management said in a statement.

"We apologise for any delays in waiting times as patients in the emergency department are prioritised according to clinical need."

Beaumont Hospital in Dublin also advised that visiting restrictions are in place in its premises.

"Like many other hospitals across the country, Beaumont is requesting that patients with cold and flu symptoms who may be considering coming to the ED first contact their GP," bosseses said in a statement to the Herald.

St Luke's General Hospital in Carlow/Kilkenny has recorded the highest incidence of flu nationally, according to the report.

An HSE spokesperson said that many hospitals are reporting a "significant surge" in demand as the number of cases of winter-related illnesses continue to rise.


"While the HSE expects this spike in demand for ED care to continue in the coming weeks, the situation will be carefully monitored," the spokesperson said.

Health Minister Simon Harris admitted that hospitals face a "challenging time ahead", but denied that there was a national emergency.

"We need a redoubling of efforts by the HSE and of managers in every hospital site," he said.

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