Varadkar convenes Emergency Department Taskforce

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Minister for Health Leo Varadkar has today convened the Emergency Department Taskforce to find long-term solutions to overcrowding.

The taskforce comprises relevant stakeholders such as Senior Doctors, Lead Hospital Consultants, HSE National Directors, Union representatives and senior officials from the HSE Acute Hospitals Directorate and the Department.

It’s chaired by Dr Tony O’Connell, HSE National Director of Acute Hospital Services and will meet regularly in 2015 to address challenges in Unscheduled Care through consultation and partnership.

Speaking after attending the first meeting of the taskforce in Dr Steeven’s Hospital this afternoon, Minister Varadkar said: “There has been a significant increase in the number of patients on trolleys. As a result Emergency Department over-crowding in the latter part of this year has reversed much of the progress achieved since the change of Government. The implementation of the Delayed Discharge initiative is freeing up beds by providing more nursing home ‘Fair Deal’ placements, more step-down community beds and extra home care packages. This will all help, but short-term interventions only work for a while. We need a renewed and sustained focus on this problem. I will provide any political leadership I can, but I am going to need full engagement from management and the frontline to get things done. I think the ED Task Force can be a catalyst for that.

“We cannot rely solely on intensive short term solutions if we are going to manage access to emergency and acute care. I welcome this engagement of service providers, union representatives and officials to address the problems being experienced by Emergency Departments and to ensure that patients who require acute hospital care can access the service they need when they need it.

“The taskforce will meet on a monthly basis to debate and decide issues across the health system which impact on access to acute hospital services, with primary, acute, community and ambulance services working together to develop effective measures to address these.”

Following this initial meeting, the HSE will work on an action plan to be produced in early 2015 to specifically address ED issues with a view to a significant reduction in trolley waits over the course of 2015.