Almost ninety per cent of Portiuncula A&E patients discharged within six hours in one month last year

Almost nine out of 10 patients who attended Portiuncula Hospital’s emergency department in December were “seen” and discharged within six hours.

That is despite the fact that the numbers attending the Ballinasloe facility increased from 21,229 in 2011 to 22,892 last year.

A one year review of the Galway and Roscommon University Hospital Group revealed that Portiuncula Hospital had made “great strides” in improving the length of time that patients spent at its A&E department.

Hospital management - who met Oireachtas and Regional Health Forum members recently to review the development of the group after a year - outlined progress had also been made last year with A&E waiting times at Galway University Hospitals. In February 2012 there were an average of 24 patients waiting for admission at 8am but by November this number had been halved.

Bill Maher, CEO of the Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group, said since it was set up in January 2012, the number of patients seen and treated was above the targets set out in the service plan for the year. All of this was achieved with a reduced budget and fewer staff. The numbers treated in the hospitals in the group last year were as follows:-

· 51,024 inpatients (up one per cent ).

· 101,086 daycases (up 10 per cent ).

· 286,966 outpatient appointments (up four per cent ).

· 87,763 Emergency department presentations

(up two per cent ).

· 5,912 Urgent care centre presentations

at Roscommon Hospital.

· 5,439 babies delivered (down two per cent ).

“One of key achievements for the Galway and Roscommon University Group in 2012 was to meet the Department of Health’s special delivery unit target for inpatient waiting lists,” said Mr Maher. “This is that no adult should wait longer than nine months, children should not wait longer than 20 weeks and people requiring scopes should be seen within 13 weeks. In order to meet this target the hospital group had to see 13,944 patients by the end of September and this target was successfully reached. We also were able to meet the waiting list targets for the remainder of the year and this has been possible by maximising the potential contribution of each hospital in the group.

“Some of the key service developments across the group in 2012 include the introduction of urology services at Roscommon Hospital along with extended endoscopy services, extended plastic and reconstructive surgery services, sleep studies, nurse prescribing, extended dental surgery and an upgrade of the x-ray system. At Portiuncula Hospital the elective surgery programme and the productive operating theatre programme commenced and we opened the newly refurbished paediatric unit. In addition, new state-of-the-art high definition equipment was installed which means that we can now treat an expanded range of minimally invasive or keyhole surgery procedures which have many benefits for patients such as reduced post operative pain and quicker recovery.”

He outlined that a cancer strategy group was set up at Galway University Hospitals. The extended neonatal unit, which has a capacity for 17 cots and significantly reduces the need to transfer babies to other neonatal units, was officially opened. The management group also launched a joint pilot scheme with community services to provide specialised rehabilitation for stroke patients in their homes, reducing their hospital stay.

“We also introduced a new musculoskeletal clinic to assist with the management of orthopaedic waiting lists with an additional 50 patients being seen per week. We started a new clinic for patients with inflammatory bowel disease and in November we opened a theatre admission lounge which means that selected patients who are pre-assessed for surgery are now able to check in at a dedicated area in the theatre block, get changed and walk straight into theatre to have their procedure done.”

He said that the budget for the group for 2012 was €287m, a reduction of €25m on the previous year. There was also a deficit from 2011 which meant that the actual challenge for the year was €35m.

“Every effort was made to bring our expenditure back in line with our revised budget with a particular focus on income collection, procurement savings and savings on premium payments, overtime and agency costs; we reduced our expenditure by over €2m compared to last year. By end of the year the overspend for the group, adjusting for income budgets not implemented and once offs, was €29.8m.”

Mr Maher said the hospitals’ priorities for 2013 are to improve access to services for patients. This means working on admission times from the emergency departments, maintaining inpatient waiting time targets (which includes a reduction to an eight month wait for adults ) and meeting the SDU’s outpatient waiting time target - patients should not wait longer than 12 months - by the end of November.

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