HSE Confirms Commitment to Emergency Departments

30th May 2008

 Major infrastructural developments underway

The HSE remains committed to reducing waiting times and numbers within Emergency Departments as well as delivering significant infrastructural developments.

A clear improvement in the numbers waiting is very obvious from data going back over the past three years.  This is an exceptional performance and demonstrates that the HSE has delivered successfully on its commitments to address the issue of numbers waiting and more significantly, the length of time people wait.

Having established the Winter Initiative in 2006, the HSE demonstrated its full and ongoing commitment to this issue and has continued to do so in a diverse range of initiatives that addressed this on a system wide basis – involving both hospital and community based solutions.

The average number waiting for admission has reduced substantially over the past three years:

March 2006                   259

March 2007                   103

March  2008                  107 (many hospitals experienced winter vomiting virus in the first months of 2008)


To date

May    2008                   87

The HSE’s Emergency Departments see and treat more than 3000 people every day.  Of these 3,000 plus people, less than 5% have to waiting for admission.  The remaining 95% are either treated and discharged or admitted without any waiting.  The majority of those who have to waiting for admission do so for less than 12 hours

The HSE provided significant additional resources throughout 2007 to improve Emergency Departments across the country and are in line with the recommendations of the 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 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  (home help) 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.

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.

o claim that the HSE has not invested in the infrastructure of Emergency Departments.  Significant funding has been invested to fund new ED Departments and upgrade and extend existing departments over the past two years.  This work is continuing.  It is therefore untrue to suggest that the HSE has not addressed infrastructural issues in Emergency 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

The HSE is also in the process rolling out specific discharge planning programmes in hospitals across the country. This will allow nurses to become more centrally involved with consultants in discharging patients.  This will generate greater efficiency with targeted and recorded time of discharge.  Hospitals will know when patients are being discharged which will allow them to admit new patients at a specific time and decrease the time they wait for admission.  The IAEM are involved in this process. 

Stressing the achievements since the introduction of the Winter Initiative, Mr John O Brien, National Director of the Winter Initiative programme today noted: 

“The HSE is fully committed to ensuring that people are seen, assessed and admitted (as appropriate) as efficiently as possible through our Emergency Departments.  We are investing significantly in new Emergency Departments and upgrading many others.  However, it is very clear that the solution has always remained in looking at this issue not just in hospital terms but seeing it as an opportunity to ensure that our patients receive care and attention in the most appropriate setting. For that reason we have invested heavily in our community services – public long stay beds for our older clients, home care packages and home help hours to ensure they can be discharged appropriately and remain in their own homes as most wish.

Our success is obvious from the significant reductions in the numbers waiting but mainly from the times people are waiting.  But we know this is an ongoing situation and we remain fully committed to reducing the times people wait and developing the community based services that bring services closer to people’s homes and avoid the necessity for going to the acute hospitals.”


For further information contact:

Ann McLoone
National Press and Media Relations
087 2957225
01 6352840

Last updated on: 30 / 05 / 2008