SIPTU and ICTU Health unions are to meet the HSE later this week to discuss the upsurge in activity faced by the acute sector. It follows a a meeting which took place on December 30th to discuss the situation.
At that meeting, management advised of the following:
• Different issues and pressures are presenting on sites across the country.
• The current challenge is not only prevalent to emergency departments and is being experienced across all areas of the acute system.
• There is significant absence of healthcare workers being recorded due to illness.
• The current level of activity within the acute system has not been experienced since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020.
• The level of flu symptoms presenting have not spiked and are continuing to climb. This is causing a significant level of concern.
• The meeting was told members of the National Crisis Management Team (NCMT) are visiting all acute sites across the country. This is an ongoing situation.
• NCMT is engaging with all sites and advising them to use whatever means are deemed necessary to address the upsurge.
• Solutions are being identified locally as they will be different depending on the challenges arising.
• Management stated they have been planning for winter 2022/2023 for a considerable period but the current patterns are presenting a sudden surge with no ending in sight.
• Discharges are being prioritised.
• This is an exceptional influenza season. Due to post covid, flu was very low in the last two years. The season normally peaks at week 4. This is now week 7 and is still climbing.
• Cases of RSV (in children of 5 years and younger) appear to be falling.
• No new COVID variant has been identified.
In response, SIPTU requested the following:
1) A composite document from the HSE which outlines all the challenges presenting across the country, the local solutions identified to address them and confirmation they will be supported with necessary funding. The HSE stated they would seek to have a document prepared for the unions and this would be shared at the next meeting.
2) Confirmation from the HSE of what protections and supports they will put in place for healthcare workers themselves who are striving to provide care to their patients in this extremely difficult period. The HSE stated this would be considered and they would seek to respond next week.
3) Clarification regarding the use of additional capacity within private hospitals. We were advised additional capacity within private hospitals has been secured across the country. Th Union understands this includes additional capacity within the private hospitals we organise within. The meeting was advised the specific use of additional capacity within private hospitals will depend on what is available and the local needs arising. The exact arrangements will be agreed at local level.
4) Clarification if additional capacity is being utilised by the National Ambulance Service (NAS). The meeting was advised NAS already has arrangements for the use of private or voluntary ambulance services. SIPTU requested specific information relating to what additional capacity is currently being used by the NAS to address the upsurge in activity. The Union was advised this would be sought from the NAS and presented at a further meeting.
5) Management stated additional capacity within diagnostics is a central element of the plan to address the current challenge arising. SIPTU requested clarification of what specific provisions are being made available for additional diagnostics capacity.
SIPTU will endeavour to keep members updated on the outcome of the next meeting.