Speeding up hospital admission times for patients attending A&E departments is one of the top priorities for the Galway and Roscommon University Hospitals Group this year, according to its chief executive.
Bill Maher, the head of the group which comprises UHG, Merlin Park, Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals, said other aims are to maintain inpatient waiting time targets. This includes a reduction to an eight month waiting time for adults as well as meeting the outpatient waiting time target.
Outlining the local health authority’s service plan for 2013 he said improving patients experiences was another objective.
He told a recent meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum that the authority’s budget for this year is €318.5m which means it is in an improved financial position at the start of the year due to an increase of €20.9m on last year’s budget (€297.6m ).
“However we are forecasting that our expenditure will be €344.5m which leaves us with a financial challenge of €26m,” he stated. “We plan to address this challenge through other sources of funding for example deferring procurement of medical equipment and income from private patients once legislation has been introduced to allow us to invoice private patients in public beds. This will leave a balance of €16m which will be met through cost containment measures.”
He stressed that the hospitals’ focus at all times is the patient and ensuring that as many services as possible are provided locally while also making sure that specialised care is provided in the most appropriate location.
The meeting was told that the Department of Health’s Special Delivery Unit (SDU ) has set a target that patients should wait no longer than 12 months for an outpatient appointment. This target has to be met by the end of November.
Tony Canavan, the chief operating officer for the group, described the progress being made to meet the SDU target.
“Following a validation exercise started at the end of last year we have identified that there are now 37,845 patients on the outpatient waiting list for the group and 31,057 of these must be treated by November.
“This year we have embarked on a major project which will involve a total change in the way that we manage the outpatient service from the way we assign appointments to the delivery of the actual service. This project will involve hospital staff and also GPs and indeed patients themselves.
“We are tackling the outpatient waiting list in the same way we approached the long inpatient waiting list last year. It involves four steps: waiting list validation, improved reporting and focus, more effective use of resources across all of the hospitals in the group, patient education and engagement as well as increasing capacity.”
He outlined the HSE plans to give appointments to all patients, appointments will be given to those waiting longest first.
“We have milestones in place for the remainder of the year to keep us on track for the November deadline set by the SDU target. We are increasing our capacity in order to be able to see so many patients by having longer clinic sessions and by running additional clinics.
“This is a major challenge for us as the outpatient waiting list has grown incrementally over a number of years. However, we successfully met the SDU target set for inpatients last September and we continued to meet the waiting list target for the remainder of the year. We know that this approach works and are applying it now to the outpatient waiting list also.”