herald

Wednesday 16 October 2019

Trolley waits down, but 'flu surge ahead'

Health Minister Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Health Minister Simon Harris and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar

The number of people waiting on trolleys in hospitals around the country is down by 51pc, but health service officials are warning of a "surge" in flu cases just around the corner.

Milder temperatures at the beginning of winter have seen a fall in the number of patients presenting with flu.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and Health Minister Simon Harris yesterday attended a briefing from senior HSE officials on the winter plan, during which they were warned the first two weeks of January would see a rise in flu cases.

Precautions

Mr Varadkar urged people to use emergency departments for emergencies only in the coming weeks.

"The Taoiseach is absolutely right, there is a surge ahead," Mr Harris said.

They urged people to take precautions such as getting the flu jab, especially pregnant women.

At 8am yesterday, hospitals recorded 111 patients waiting to be admitted to hospital from emergency departments, less than half the number on the same day last year.

The HSE's Anne O'Connor pointed out that temperatures in recent weeks had been mild and flu levels were expected to rise in the coming weeks.

"Flu levels still remain low. We do expect them to rise in January," she said.

The Taoiseach said hospitals were in a better position than they were at this time last year, but cautioned that there were challenging times ahead.

"The weeks ahead are among the busiest for the health service," Mr Varadkar said.

"So, if you are sick, please don't visit elderly relatives, don't visit other people who are sick, because that could cause you to pass on the illness that you have.

"For anyone who hasn't had the flu vaccine yet, it's still possible to have it and among the groups most at risk are pregnant women, who can get very sick."

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