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The Minister for Health met with members of the Emergency Department Taskforce on Monday (8th January) to discuss the current pressure on Emergency Departments (ED) across the country and the exceptional measures being taken to alleviate this.

Mr Harris stated: “It’s unacceptable that patients are experiencing very difficult conditions in our EDs. However, we are beginning to see an impact from the exceptional measures being undertaken and the intense efforts of all our staff across the health service at this time.

“It is important to note that INMO figures today are 101 lower than the first working day last week and 122 lower than the highest figure the INMO recorded last week”.

The Minister explained that the ED Taskforce meeting focused on measures being taken around the country, which it was agreed are to continue and intensify in the coming days.

The measures agreed at the meeting included increasing the number of senior clinical decision makers on hand in hospitals in the evenings and at weekends, enhancing access to diagnostics, increasing access to transitional care beds, the opening of additional beds in a number of hospitals including St James’s, the Mater and Beaumont, and using beds in private hospitals.

Mr Harris has requested that the ED Taskforce carry out a piece of work to examine how we can better support our elderly during the winter months, which could feed into planning for next winter and beyond.

He concluded: “We must now focus on making sure we have plans in place to fix the situation in our emergency departments and break the cycle of overcrowding in the health service.

“I’m committed to pursuing three priorities in 2018 to achieve this – increasing bed capacity using evidence provided by the bed capacity review, implementing reform through Sláintecare and increasing services provided through Primary Care by negotiating a new GP contract”.

Minister Harris confirmed that he would bring the bed capacity review to Government in the coming weeks with the aim of feeding this into the Government’s capital plan.