Hospital delays set to last for days, says minister
Hospital outpatient clinics in Dublin and across the country will reopen today, but some waiting list patients who were due to undergo surgery will have their operations postponed in the wake of the storm.
Urgent procedures are being prioritised and will go ahead.
The HSE has warned it will be several days before health services return to normal.
There is likely to be a surge in attendances at A&E departments and GP clinics, as patients who had been forced to stay at home yesterday seek medical care.
Storm Ophelia caused major disruption to healthcare yesterday, with the cancellation of hospital outpatient clinics in the interest of public safety.
Many patients whose appointments were cancelled had waited months, or even more than a year, to see a specialist.
Health Minister Simon Harris said the message for patients today is, "if you have an appointment turn up as planned, unless you hear otherwise. In the event of a cancellation, people will be contacted.
"People can expect some delays in their appointments and discharges from hospitals over the next few days."
A spokesman for the HSE said yesterday the disruption in the coming days is due to "a number of factors, including road conditions, building damage, power outages and disruption to full staffing levels".
It has left health services playing "catch-up".
The storm obstructed services in many communities, with some public health nurses and home helps having to curtail visits to the homes of sick and elderly people.
Hospital A&E departments had 359 patients on trolleys at lunchtime yesterday - more than a third higher than the same day last year.
More than 200 were waiting for a bed for in excess of nine hours.
Although attendances were generally down, the overcrowding was exacerbated by the inability to discharge many patients due to the bad weather and the risk they faced without proper home care or other supports.
It meant even fewer beds for emergency patients.
Cork University Hospital and Galway University Hospital were worst hit. However, hospitals in the south, which was lashed by the storm, were also badly hit. The HSE spokesman stressed the "safety of patients and clients travelling at this time is paramount".
He pointed out that, in the event that patients or clients deem it unsafe to travel for an appointment, the service concerned will reschedule the appointment as quickly as possible.
The main focus of community services will be visiting the most vulnerable people.
Hospitals will try to discharge elderly patients to the most appropriate facilities as quickly as possible, he added.
Mr Harris said yesterday was a "difficult and challenging one for our health services and I want to thank all of those who came to work today and went above and beyond".
He asked anyone who does not have an urgent need to attend their hospital or GP today to stay away.