'Traditional' trolley and other pressures at Portlaoise and other hospitals in Dublin and the midlands caused by flu and other winter illness will continue for 'weeks', according to the HSE's management team responsible for running the hospitals.
In a statement the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG) also called on the public not to visit hospitals if they have had the flu or if a close family member has had the virus.
Encompassing the counties of Dublin, Kildare, Laois and Offaly, the DMHG has a catchment population of 800,000, with over 11,000 staff at seven hospitals.
Trolley problems have spiked at hospitals since December and the DMHG says its Emergency Departments (ED / A&E) are likely to remain under pressure.
"Traditionally the post-Christmas period is a busy period for all acute hospitals including those in the DMHG and this remains the case this year," said a statement
"We expect the current pressure on Emergency Department services to continue for a number of weeks and in order to safely manage all patients in our EDs, people with minor and less urgent medical problems are advised to see their Pharmacy/GP/out of hours service in the first instance, where possible and appropriate.
"Flu activity will continue to increase in the community for at least the next four to six weeks and Hospitals in the Group are seeing increasing numbers of people presenting with flu illness and this is impacting on already busy Emergency Departments.
"Hospitals are asking people to refrain from visiting hospitals if you or your close family have flu like symptoms. If you are concerned, please contact the Hospital in advance of visiting patients in Hospital," said the statement.
The DMHG said that while attendances at emergency departments within the Group have increased over recent days, the situation is being actively monitored and responded to by all our hospitals.
This response includes: increasing the number of ward rounds, planned reduction of elective procedures to create additional capacity, and transferring, where appropriate, patients to other facilities and services.
The DMHG said home care, step down and long term care discharge options, in cooperation with community healthcare colleagues, have also been expanded, where possible.
As well as this, services such as diagnostics and access to medical assessment units have been extended to deal with current pressures.
"In addition, with the incidence of flu-like symptoms circulating in the community increasing we would remind people of the importance of getting the flu vaccination, particularly for vulnerable groups such as the elderly, those with existing conditions or pregnant women. Flu rates are above the baseline threshold a level which means that flu is actively circulating in the community according to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre www.hpsc.ie.
"It is still timely to get vaccinated against influenza, as the number of reported cases of influenza-like Illness (ILI) in Ireland has increased in the past three weeks.
The DMHG acknowledge the hard work of our staff during this busy period.
The DMHG comprises seven hospitals: St James’s Hospital, Coombe Women’s and Infants University Hospital, Tallaght Hospital, St Luke's Oncology Radiation Network, Naas General Hospital, Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise and Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore.
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