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Winter plan criticised as ‘wish-list’ that will not work

An extra 600 million euro would be spent under the plan.

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A general view of Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise (Niall Carson/PA)

A general view of Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise (Niall Carson/PA)

A general view of Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise (Niall Carson/PA)

The HSE’s winter plan has been slammed as a “wish-list” that is short on targets.

The winter plan was published on Thursday and includes pledges to add hundreds of extra acute beds in to the system by early next year.

It will involve additional spending of 600 million euro for the rest of this year and into early next year.

However, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (Inmo) warned that the plan will “simply not work” without extra nursing and midwifery staffing.

The HSE said it hopes to recruit an additional 12,000 staff but acknowledged that it was “ambitious”.

Inmo general secretary, Phil Ni Sheaghdha, said: “Without a plan for extra staffing, the winter plan will simply not work.

“Extra hospital beds are much needed, but they are meaningless and dangerous if not properly staffed and resourced.

“For months now, we have sought a funded workforce plan from the HSE, setting out how many nurses and midwives they intend to hire in the health service.

“We are still awaiting any engagement, something we have referred to the WRC (Work Relations Commission) as a dispute.

“This winter plan brings welcome investment, but absolutely zero clarity on how we will recruit and retain the staff to provide care.

“The HSE says it will take a zero-tolerance approach to overcrowding, yet trolley figures continue to grow.”

There is no clear allocation of funding to hire additional hospital consultants and other frontline professionals Alan Irvine

Professor Alan Irvine, president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) said the HSE blueprint promises to invest in services but “not in the professionals required to deliver them”.

“The big promises in the plan can only be realised if we have additional consultants and healthcare professionals,” he added.

“The plan includes little to no specifics on this fundamental component.

“Building capacity requires investing in space and in professional healthcare workers.

“There is no clear allocation of funding to hire additional hospital consultants and other frontline professionals.

“Two-thirds of the 600 million euro will not be deployed until 2021.

“These factors alone immediately cause concern around the ability of the plan to adequately address the challenge of a ‘winter like no other’.”

Sinn Fein’s spokesman for health David Cullinane said the plan was a “wish-list”.

“We know 1,100 acute beds are needed now.

“The Government is only proposing 251 additional beds by the end of the year,” he added.

“We also know that at least 50 ICU beds, the Government is only proposing an additional 17.

“They have no targets in their plan in relation to staff.

“Their plan is a wish-list.

“It’s short on targets, it does’t have any targets in relation to staff.

“It falls far short of what is needed.”

Labour leader Alan Kelly called for the Government to give assurances over the capacity figures.

He added: “There’s ambitious plans for recruitment of 12,500 people, 5,000 before Christmas and 7,500 afterwards.

“The Inmo has pointed out that some nurses have come back from abroad and haven’t been able to get fulltime jobs already.

“What’s going to radically change and where are we going to get the consultants we require?”

PA