The Health Service Executive (HSE) said it has learned lessons from last winter as it unveiled the 26 million euro Winter Plan.
The HSE said the money would be allocated by the end of this year to ease the pressure on hospitals in what is traditionally the busiest period of the year.
The plan, announced on Thursday, is set to provide extra beds, home care, extra medical resources, increased nursing, pharmacy and laboratory staff and therapies support.
Speaking on Thursday, HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said the HSE is focused on ensuring that patients are provided with the appropriate care to meet their needs as quickly as possible.
By the end of October, 1.1 million patients had attended our 29 emergency departments, 3% more than at the same time last yearAnne O'Connor, HSE chief operations officer
“Building on the lessons learned from last winter, we will have a number of initiatives with a particular focus on the timely discharge of patients from hospital to appropriate care in the community including home care, step-down/transitional care or long-term care,” she said.
“All our Hospital Groups and Community Health Organisations have joint Winter Plans in place to prepare for and to manage service pressures in their areas this winter, which we have been planning for since July.
“Acute hospitals are continuing to see a year-on-year increase in the number of patients requiring treatment and care. By the end of October, 1.1 million patients had attended our 29 emergency departments, 3% more than at the same time last year.”
Dr Vida Hamilton, HSE national clinical adviser, acute hospitals, said a significant number of patients attend emergency departments with a flare-up of their chronic illness due to incorrect medicine use.
“I would encourage all of these patients living with a chronic condition such as asthma, COPD, diabetes and heart conditions to take some time now to check with their pharmacist and/or GP to ensure they know their medicines and devices and are taking them and using them correctly. Hand-washing is also vitally important to prevent the spread of viruses and infection,” she said.
Dr Hamilton encouraged people to get the flu vaccine, following more than 80 deaths directly from the virus last year.
She said while 50% of people with chronic disease have received their winter vaccinations, she encouraged the remaining half to get their flu vaccine.
Green Party health spokesman Dr Seamus McMenamin criticised the HSE Winter Plan and said it does nothing to address the structural problems in the HSE.
“Structural problems in the HSE lead to overcrowding in our hospitals and is at this point like moving the deckchairs on the Titanic,” he said.
“The shortage of GPs and hospital consultants means that ‘senior decision makers’ will not be available in many instances and this can not be addressed by December and there does not appear to be any will among the Government to address this in the medium to long term.”