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Crisis in A&E

24th April 2006

28032006_ambulance.jpgThe Department of Finance and the Health Service Executive (HSE) and have failed to reach agreement on the provision of extra staff needed to implement a 10-point plan for accident and emergency (A&E) care introduced 14 months ago.

The HSE has still not been given approval to hire staff it says are needed to solve the problem, though the health minister, Mary Harney, has said that the A&E units are a “national emergency�.
 
The HSE wants an additional 500 staff to implement last year’s plan, but the finance department is only prepared to pay for 360, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal, said The Sunday Times. These figures are contained in an e-mail sent last October by the health department to Pat McLoughlin, the director of the National Hospitals Office and Angela Fitzgerald, its network manager.

The finance department said it was “currently reviewing the employment ceiling for the health sector . . . in the context of recent initiatives� such as the A&E plan. The HSE and the finance department confirmed this weekend that the issue has yet to be resolved. The HSE would not say how many extra staff have now been hired, only that 500 remains its target.

The HSE established a taskforce on A&E last month after Harney declared that overcrowding was “a national emergency�. The taskforce is attempting to reduce the time it takes to get a hospital bed to less than 24 hours by the end of this year, and to six hours or less within two years.

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