The Government’s 2020/21 Winter Plan is a ‘wish list’ which is short on targets, timelines and ambition. It is lacking in detail, targets, and timelines for staff recruitment and bed delivery. It is underwhelming and very disappointing.
It’s not a plan to catch up on missed care, it’s not a plan to build capacity, it’s not even a plan to stand still.
It falls far short on the number of beds and staff required to safely deliver Covid, non-Covid, and catch up care in the coming months.
The Sinn Féin plan, launched in early August, would deliver 1,100 additional acute and sub-acute beds and 50 ICU beds this year, €40 million to kickstart Cancer care, and bring on an additional 2,500 staff ahead of winter, not after.
The Government plan will only deliver 251 acute beds and 89 sub-acute beds in 2020 and 232 acute beds in early 2021.
The 17 ICU beds proposed is far short of what is needed. Additional ICU beds in early 2021 will be crucial but no target has been set. These new bed numbers include additional beds already due to come online. It only provides revenue funding to open them not capital funding to deliver additional beds.
The HSE admits that the so-called ‘new’ beds will only mitigate Covid-related capacity shortfalls, not meet demand.
There are hundreds of unfilled vacancies across the health service, as the INMO and IHCA have said. Without filling these, new beds cannot be opened.
Without clear commitments and rapid recruitment this will not relieve the burden on existing staff – they are overworked, burned out, and have worked hard through last winter and this pandemic with no relief.
There are no mentions of disability services and mental health services, and no funding to kickstart cancer services this year.
We welcome the investment in occupational welfare supports for frontline staff, investment in community care and community intervention teams, and the winter flu expansion.
These were core parts of our Capacity Protection plan. But these alone are not enough and the rest of the plan misses the mark.