HSE chief Paul Reid has warned that hospitals are expecting to be under significant pressure this winter.
e said that the HSE has been ‘battered and bruised’ by four Covid-19 waves and the cyber-attack but added that plans are being put in place to deal with future challenges.
“As we look forward to the big challenges, big challenges as we look head into winter, big challenges about getting back to non-Covid care, big challenges in relation to our waiting lists – they are all the plans that we are putting in place now to address those challenges,” he told RTÉ Six One News this evening.
“Throughout Covid our primary focus was about protecting the public, patients and our staff, but we do know the impact in terms of non-Covid care, in terms of mental health and physical health. All of our medical workforce are really anxious that we get back to prioritising all levels of care,” he said.
Mr Reid said the health service is finalising its winter plan which will focus on helping people to avoid going to hospital unless it is necessary.
He said the plan includes giving GPs increased access to diagnostics outside of hospital setting, utilising some private hospital capacity as is needed and more roles for community intervention teams to help patients in their homes.
He added that hospitals are coming under increased pressure due to delayed care and said ‘it’s going to be a really challenging winter ahead for us’.
In relation to the next steps for the health service and society in terms of Covid-19, Mr Reid said all the trends are very positive but that the public must stay vigilant as restrictions continue to be lifted.
It comes as over almost 93pc of the adult population have received their first Covid-19 vaccine, while 90pc of adults over 18 years are now fully vaccinated.
Mr Reid said that despite the high-level of vaccination in the State, the HSE is looking at what elements of the vaccine infrastructure should be maintained in case they are needed in the future.
He added that the prevention controls will remain in hospitals to protect patients, and to reduce the risk of Covid-19 outbreaks in these settings.