12 Hour Waits not “Normal” in Emergency Department Services and HSE Remains Committed to Improvements

June 17, 2008

The Health Service Executive (HSE) today clarified the situation regarding patients waiting on trolleys in Emergency Departments (ED) and refuted suggestions that waits of 12 hours and over were normal.

On average, 3,000 people attend our ED services every day and approximately 1,000 of them will be admitted. In the first four months of this year, throughout our hospitals, an average of 52 people were waiting more than 12 hours to be transferred to a hospital ward from an Emergency Department each day. This represented approximately 5% of each day’s admissions. By May, 2008, this daily average had fallen to an average of 29 people waiting over 12 hours nationally each day out of an average of 1,000 admissions – or just under 3% of all those patients admitted.

Speaking at today’s launch of the HSE’s Annual Report, Professor Brendan Drumm pointed out that –

“The vast majority of the 3,000 people who attend our Emergency Departments daily receive a swift service and it is unfair to take  an issue which relates to 3% of activity as representing all the work that is carried out in these departments and reflective of the overall health service. Obviously, we are not content to accept that, in some hospitals and for some patients, such waits occur and we are continuing to focus on minimising waiting times. That said, we have come a long way from 2006 when the situation in Emergency Departments was considered a national crisis”.

The HSE provided significant additional resources throughout 2007 to improve Emergency Departments across the country and are in line with the recommendations of its ED Task Force Report and include:

  • 200 beds in Admission Lounges throughout the country;
  • Additional 646 Long Stay Beds provided in the private sector in 2007, on top of 1349 beds provided in 2005 and 2006  (over the past month alone the HSE has secured 120 beds to reduce the number of delayed discharges);
  • Additional 860 new Public Long stay beds to open in 2007 and 2008
    (This includes a series of new public community hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway);
  • HSE provided direct access for patients via GPs to Diagnostics at a cost of €6m in 2007;
  • GP Out of Hours Services have been expanded in North Dublin;
  • Hospital avoidance measures to treat patients who would otherwise be occupying an acute hospital bed have been a major new focus of development over the last year.   These include four community Intervention Teams set up this year in Limerick, Cork and Dublin, the hospital in the home service (that is currently  being incorporated directly into HSE services to be delivered internally) and a Rapid Access Clinic in Smithfield which will treat over 2000 older persons this year;
  • Community Intervention Teams have been expanded to provide additional care in the non hospital setting;
  • A rehabilitation service has been established for patients on the north side of Dublin and this will commence this Autumn;
  • Community Supports and services – in particular home care packages and home help services - are providing significant levels of support to the acute hospital system. Home Care Packages are designed to facilitate timely discharge of older people from acute hospitals and reduce pressure on Emergency Departments and reduce inappropriate admissions. At any given time almost 9,000 people across the country will be in receipt of home care packages. Over 11,000 people benefit every year;
  • Home help is a core community service that supports older people remaining at home – preventing acute admission and delaying or preventing admission to residential facilities.  Over the past three year over 13,000 more people benefited from this service nationally (increasing from 41,400 to 54,500). In this period, total home help hours increased by 32%.  Up to 12m home help hours will be provided ion 2008.

The HSE has invested in the infrastructure of Emergency Departments.  Significant funding is being made available in 2008 to fund new ED Departments and upgrade and extend existing departments.

The following table illustrates the commitment of the HSE and the work in progress nationally:

Kerry General Hospital:      

The HSE has gone to tender for a new Emergency Dept

Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda:

A new Emergency Department is currently under construction

Waterford Regional Hospital:

A major extension of the Emergency Department is currently at design stage

Beaumont Hospital:

A new Medical Admissions Unit is currently under construction

Sligo General Hospital:

A new Medical Admissions Unit is currently under construction

University College Hospital, Galway:

A new 45 bed Medical Admissions Unit is currently at design stage

Letterkenny General Hospital:

Thirty bed ward was added last year to ease pressure on the Emergency Department and plans for a new Emergency Department as part of the larger development of the hospital are currently at an advanced stage

Wexford General Hospital:

Design work will begin on a new Emergency Department will begin later this year

Cavan General Hospital:

Planning for a new Medical Admissions Unit is currently underway.


Last updated on: 18 / 06 / 2008