Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Hospital Trusts

9:50 pm

Photo of Anne RabbitteAnne Rabbitte (Galway East, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Deputy for bringing this matter to the House and taking the time to read in to the record exactly what the consultants wrote to him. It was hard to listen to. They were obviously pained that they felt they had to go to this extreme. I sense the Deputy's annoyance with the Minister not being here this evening to take this response. I have a response but I feel it falls far short of what it should be. I thank the Deputy for raising this and giving me the opportunity to provide an update to the House on University Hospital Kerry, UHK. I want to acknowledge the incredible work and commitment made by the staff of UHK in the provision of services during the Covid-19 and cyber-attack emergencies and in managing many difficult cases presenting in very challenging circumstances. UHK is currently experiencing significant pressure caused by a number of factors. These include increased presentations of acutely unwell patients with complex medical needs, as well a rising number of Covid patients presenting to the hospital in recent weeks.

Currently we are seeing extensive community transmission of Covid-19 throughout all parts of the country, including Kerry. There are cases in all age groups and particularly among the unvaccinated. The 14 day incidence rate in Kerry 1,061. As of this morning, there are 12 Covid-19 positive inpatients in UHK. In addition, there are approximately 141 staff on unplanned leave including 18 staff absent due to Covid-19 leave. This level of absence is contributing to the greatest risk in resourcing existing level of service and staffing surge capacity, in particular in critical care.

The HSE has advised me that the South/South West Hospital Group is currently providing support to UHK management for a minimum of two days a week for the coming month in order to support, stabilise and urgently address identified risks at the hospital and there can be no greater risk than not having access to an updated IT system within the emergency department. The focus of this support will be to identify delays within UHK patient flow streams and to propose solutions. This arrangement has been put in place to ensure that the hospital group is assured of the ongoing safe management of patients in UHK. The HSE has advised that a number of measures have been implemented at UHK to ensure the highest standards of patient care and safety are upheld. These include access to private hospital capacity, engagement with community healthcare services and additional staffing supports from the hospital group and other hospitals.

On staffing issues, the HSE has advised me that the approved consultant cohort for UHK has increased from 39 whole-time equivalents, WTE, in September 2017 to 52 WTE in September 2021. In addition, significant developments have taken place in the department of nursing with the appointment of advanced nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists roles and clinical facilitators. Locally, hospital management has ensured ongoing recruitment and further support is being provided at a regional level by the wider HR support network, including SSWHG.

The HSE and the South/South West Hospital Group have assured me of their commitment to augmenting the services delivered in UHK to meet identified local demands. This includes the provision of additional resources and staffing, and a capital investment plan of €69.75 million. Nationally, the winter plan is in active development by the HSE and will set out the measures to be implemented and the expected impacts. The Department of Health is continuing to engage intensively with the HSE on the issue. The winter plan will provide for the appropriate, safe and timely care for patients


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