Reacting to today’s publication of the HSE Winter Plan, Róisín Shortall TD, co-leader of the Social Democrats, said that while the level of investment is significant, the recruitment of staff will be critical to get additional services up and running.

Deputy Shortall, who is the party’s spokesperson on Health, said:

“The investment of €600m and aims of the plan are laudable, but when you look at the detail only one-third of that will be invested this year with the other two-thirds coming in early 2021. It is worth noting that much of this funding is already committed and will go towards maintaining the additional services and beds that were implemented to deal with the Covid-19 emergency.

“The challenge now is to recruit the staff. Speed is of the essence given that the system is under so much pressure and we are already facing into winter.”

Shift toward community care

  • “Moving more services into community and social care settings will be absolutely crucial and is what was set out in Sláintecare three years ago. The aims are very high, but what’s not clear is where all of the additional staff will come from to provide these services.”

GP supports

  • “It’s right to state that GPs need substantial additional support, particularly in relation to practice nurses, but more detail is still needed on this. The provision set out in the plan to provide access to diagnostics for GPs is absolutely essential and should happen without further delay.”

Homecare hours

  • “The enhancement of homecare hours is very welcome and should make a much-needed impact on the existing waiting lists for this year at least.”

Hospital beds

  • “The bottom line for hospital beds, taking into account acute, sub-acute and critical care beds, is that we are only talking about an additional 483 acute and 89 sub-acute additional beds on top of what we already have.
  • “The particular concern is critical care, where the pre-Covid bed numbers already fell far short of the recommended level that our equivalent EU countries have. The mere 17 additional critical care beds in the winter plan won’t fill this major gap.”

Staff recruitment

  • “Given the scale of what is proposed at both community and acute hospital level, the additional staff for this year of 2,760 would seem to underestimate the number needed.
  • “New staff will need to be fast-tracked to avoid the inordinately long and convoluted recruitment procedures in the HSE in order to get people into their posts as speedily as possible.”

Testing and tracing staff

  • “The testing and tracing system continues to cause concern given the severe inadequacy of the staff numbers currently available as well as the fact that many of those staff are drawn from other important healthcare services.
  • “The lack of resources to adequately trace the source of transmission is a major concern, which I hope will be addressed with enhanced staffing levels.”

Mental health and disability are glaring omissions

  • “It is concerning that no enhanced additional funding for mental health services or disability services are included given the level of serious need and chronic underfunding, and I would certainly hope that more information will be provided on these in the coming days.”

September 24, 2020

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