“The 2017 HSE Service Plan published today signals a very challenging year ahead in our health services and is unlikely to make any serious headway in alleviating the difficulties we face on a daily basis,” said the Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Billy Kelleher.

“This proposed service plan needs to be read in the context of the 536 people lying on trolleys on hospitals this morning, including a substantial 60 in Cork University Hospital alone.

“While the hospitals have received a modest funding increase, it is highly unlikely that it will make a meaningful difference or help them to meet the targets set for them.”

“Of the €119 million increase in the hospital budget, just €9 million is for expanding existing services or developing new ones.”

“While it appears that the overall ‘goal’ for Emergency Departments is for 100 per cent of attendees to be discharged or admitted within nine hours, the  actual ‘target’ for 2017 is just a five per cent improvement on the 2016 outturn.

“This flies in the face of the six hour target announced nearly five years ago following the National Emergency Medicine Programme,” added Kelleher.

“Targets are being set without the reality in our hospitals being taken into account. In 2016, less than 50% of over 75 year olds were discharged or admitted within the six hour target. Despite knowing this, the HSE is still setting a target of 95% for 2017 without providing the resources needed to deliver on such an increase.”

“This service plan is, in my opinion, a series of ever diminishing targets. Take the

15 month deadline for waiting lists for example; 12 months after it was due to be achieved, the 2017 target is 90 per cent compliance for inpatient appointments.”

“The difficulties in our hospitals will also be exacerbated by the fact that home help hours only being maintained at 2016 levels – despite the commitments in the Programme for Government.”

“Less than two weeks ago, the HSE Director General, Mr Tony O’Brien, spoke of the 5- 6% increase in acute presentations to our EDs year-on-year, and the impact that this is having on the acute hospital system.”

“Mr O’Brien warned that unless these trends are reversed, our hospital systems will be swamped by emergency work, and will not have the capacity for elective work.”

“The Service Plan contains no measures which will radically alter the trends in Irish healthcare, and will ensure that 2017 remains difficult for the people the HSE is there to serve: the patients,” concluded Kelleher.