Update on the restoration of services

Saturday 3rd March 2018

The HSE National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) met again today, Saturday 3 March 2018, to plan for the restoration of health services in the aftermath of Storm Emma. Both hospital and community services have suffered big disruptions due to the unprecedented snowfall and the focus now is on restoring normal service as soon as possible. In particular, the NCMT is conscious of the massive effort put in by all staff, both frontline and support staff, to keep services open 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. We have commenced our recovery plan which will take us through the next ten days.

During this period of recovery, the HSE is asking for understanding and cooperation from members of the public as we seek to return to normal service provision as quickly as possible. We are asking people to consider the following:.

As the snow thaws, road conditions will still be treacherous and our National Ambulance Service will be 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 Monday 5th 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 Tuesday 6th March will be reviewed on Monday and we will make an announcement on Monday regarding the remainder of the week.
Outpatient appointments  will recommence across all hospitals on Monday 5th March. If you are unable to attend your outpatient appointment please let your hospital know.
Day surgery will proceed in the majority of our acute hospitals from Monday. 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.
Due to the heavy snowfall and travel conditions it has not been possible to discharge patients who were ready to leave hospital. 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 these 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. 
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.
Our advice to older people is to stay indoors and to keep at least one room heated to 18 degrees. Wear multiple layers of clothes, have plenty of blankets and socks to keep you warm. Make sure you eat well and keep active and 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 winterready.ie.
The GP Out of Hours service is operational but will face challenges in going to see people in their own homes. We are asking people to bear this in mind if they need to call a GP to their home. There will be delays due to the weather conditions.
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.
Our biggest challenge remains the provision of transport to our patients and staff given the difficulties on our road network. We are continuing to work with our partners including the Defence Forces and voluntary providers to help address the transport challenge. We would like to acknowledge the help received from the Defence Forces, all voluntary providers and indeed other groups and individuals, such as the farming community, who have helped our services over recent days. 

We envisage that the full recovery will extend through 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.

The HSE wishes to thank all its staff members for the extraordinary efforts they have gone to, above and beyond the call of duty, and in lots of cases not getting home for 4 to 5 days. Without this dedication and commitment our health service could not have functioned as well as it did in very difficult and testing conditions. You are a credit, not only to the health service, but to the nation as a whole.

Last updated on: 03 / 03 / 2018