HSE statement: Update on restoration of services

Monday 5th March 2018

The HSE National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) met again today, Monday 5th March 2018, to assess progress on the restoration plan for health services in the aftermath of Storm Emma.

The HSE wishes to thank the public for their ongoing patience, understanding and cooperation as we continue to work to restore our health services to normal levels. The areas of Kildare, Wexford and Wicklow are still experiencing difficulties with access following the storm and we would ask people to bear in mind that the recovery of services in these locations will be slower.  

During the course of Storm Emma we saw a 41% reduction in attendances at emergency departments due to be people being unable to travel. Consequently, we are already seeing a sharp increase in ED attendances this morning with 507 people awaiting admission to hospital. It should be noted that there are regional variations as not all areas of the country were hit as badly by the storm. For example, in Letterkenny there were 5 people waiting for admission this morning compared to 45 in Cork University Hospital.

It has also proved difficult to discharge patients who were ready to leave hospital last week. This has led to a large number of patients being delayed in hospital. We hope patients and their families understand the reasons for this and we will endeavour to facilitate their discharge as soon as possible this week. It is anticipated that over the coming week, as patients are gradually discharged, coupled with an expected increase in emergency department attendances, there will be delays in admissions with resultant increased waiting times in emergency departments.

The HSE is asking people to consider whether they really need to go to an emergency department and if there is an alternative service they can avail of. For example, if your injury is minor in nature, where you might require stitches or where you have sprained your ankle, the HSE has a number of Minor Injury Units around the country. See www.hse.ie/injuryunits for information on your local unit.

We are conscious of the massive effort put in by all staff, both frontline and support staff, to keep services open during the storm and to ensure that those most in need received treatment. These staff will now need a period of rest and this will impact staff rosters and service delivery over the coming week. This may also impact on service provision at a local level in the coming days. Hospitals and Community Healthcare Organisations will be doing everything minimise the impact of this at local level.

It should be noted that there are regional variations as not all areas of the country were hit as badly by the storm. In this regard, we are asking people to consider the following:

The National Ambulance Service continues to be under pressure and is prioritising emergency calls. Before phoning for an ambulance, we would urge people to consider why they are calling for this emergency service and, as roads are now improving, whether there are any alternative options available to them. If you do need to call an ambulance please know or have your Eircode to hand.

The HSE has cancelled all non-urgent surgeries planned for Tuesday 6th March. There is no need for patients to contact their hospital. Hospitals will be in touch over the coming weeks to reschedule their appointments.

Non-urgent surgeries planned for the remainder of this week will be reviewed on Tuesday by hospitals at local level.  Any decisions regarding further cancellations will be communicated through local media across the country.

Outpatient appointments have recommenced across all hospitals.

Day surgery has recommenced in some of our acute hospitals from today. Patients should follow the instructions received with their appointment. In the event that any day surgery appointments are cancelled and need to be rescheduled, your hospital will contact you.

Home care provision has also been affected by the heavy snowfall and we are asking people to consider checking in on elderly or vulnerable members of the community and to make sure they have supplies of food, fuel, water and medicines while we return home care services to normal levels.

For older people, please be mindful of risk of slips, trips and falls. If you have a personal alarm, make sure you wear it at all times. Read advice about falls prevention on www.winterready.ie.
The GP Out of Hours service is returning to normal service levels but is still experiencing some pressure. We are asking people to consider if they can wait until the following morning to visit their own GP and to only use the Out of Hours service where really necessary.

We are advising the public to access our communications channels to get the most up to date information – www.hse.ie/weatherwarning and @HSELive #weatherwarning on Twitter for all the latest regarding HSE services.

We envisage that the full recovery will extend beyond next week as all our services try to get back to normal operations. For those patients with appointments, we will provide further guidance as we assess the impact of the severe weather in the coming days. Further information will be made available through our communications channels www.hse.ie/weatherwarning and @HSELive.

Last updated on: 05 / 03 / 2018