HSE Winter Plan fails to address threat of ‘twindemic’ - IHCA

By dara
Tuesday, 11th October 2022
Filed under: News, PressReleases, 2022
  • Cover crop from HSE winter plan 2022 23‘Twindemic’ of flu and Covid has potential to overwhelm our public hospital and their EDs this autumn and winter;
  • Severe capacity problems in public hospitals continue to go unaddressed, with promised hospital beds yet to be opened;
  • Significant doubt over plan to recruit 51 additional ED Consultants given current recruitment timelines of over 500 days and the ongoing exodus of medical and surgical specialists, says IHCA.

Commenting on the publication of the HSE Winter Plan 2022-23 today (Tuesday 11 October 2022), Professor Robert Landers, President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said: 

“The provision of €169 million announced in the Winter Plan 2022-2023 is welcome, but much of this ‘additional funding’ has been previously included in existing allocations. We have grave concerns that it will not be nearly sufficient enough to address the magnitude of deficits in our public hospitals and the enormity of the challenges they face this autumn and winter.

“There are two key things that our patients need: hospital beds and hospital Consultants. Unfortunately, this Winter Plan is unlikely to make in-roads in delivering the significant numbers required of both of these resources. 

“This summer record numbers of admitted patients have had to be treated on trolleys while waiting for admission to a hospital bed because our wards were full. This was the worst June and August for ED overcrowding in the past 16 years. It is now expected the situation could get significantly worse as we face into a potential ‘twindemic’ of flu combined with further expected Covid cases. 

“Talk of ‘prioritising’ the opening of outstanding hospital beds already promised but not delivered will not address the problem or the impact of bed shortages on patients in our wards this winter. 

“There are still 250 inpatient beds to be opened as part of the additional 1,146 hospital beds which were funded and committed to two years ago in Budget 2021.1 Minister Donnelly’s suggestion that an additional 160 public hospital beds per year is sufficient is now far too little too late given what we now know post-Covid. We need an immediate and front-loaded expansion of hospital bed capacity.  

“We fear plans to recruit an additional 51 Consultants in Emergency Medicine, will also have little to no impact - given the current average timeline of over 500 days to recruit a Consultant. This means if any candidates are found, they may not even be in post to deliver on next year’s Winter Plan. 

“If the Minister for Health does not, as unequivocally committed to two years ago, end the discrimination against consultants appointed since 2012, the critical breach of trust that is driving our highly trained specialists away from our public hospitals will not be repaired. All the while, other countries are moving ahead and attracting away those specialists our public hospitals desperately need. 

“Based on the current mistaken approaches, it will be extremely challenging for the HSE to attract the number and calibre of specialists required to fill not only the proposed 51 posts, but also the 900 existing permanent consultant posts that cannot be filled. The reality is that far too many of our highly trained doctors are opting to emigrate and work with more collaborative terms and conditions elsewhere, rather than apply for posts in Irish public hospitals.

“Filling these posts with permanent appointees is essential to provide timely care and to continue to deliver essential services to patients year-round, including in the most challenging winter period.” 


1.    HSE PQ response to Deputy Ged Nash, 23 August 2022:  https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/personalpq/pq/2022-pq-responses/july-2022/pq-41691-22-ged-nash.pdf

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