It will take months to reschedule some of the thousands of hospital appointment cancelled because of the nurses’ strike, it has emerged.
With nurses back at work after suspending their industrial action, the HSE said it is trying to restore normal services but accepted that would not be possible in all areas.
Some patients due to attend clinics last week have been given dates in two months’ time.
The HSE said surgical patients would be contacted by their hospital if their procedure is going ahead.
Outpatient clinic appointments went ahead as planned yesterday and minor clinics were open.
Emergency departments were very busy yesterday. People had been advised to only use these services if absolutely necessary.
According to the HSE’s TrolleyGAR, there were 402 patients on trolleys in emergency departments awaiting admission to a hospital bed, an 8% decreasecompared to last year.
Of those waiting, 154 had been waiting over nine hours and 48 had been waiting over 48 hours for a bed.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation’s trolley count found 550 patients waiting for beds yesterday — 374 waiting in emergency departments and 176 in wards elsewhere in the hospital.
The worst hit were University Hospital Limerick with 60 and Cork University Hospital and Letterkenny University Hospital which had 38 each.
The president of the Irish Association for Emergency Medicine, Dr Emily O’Connor, said they expect a “rebound increase” in emergency departments over the next few days.
The HSE said it expects that emergency departments would be “extremely busy” this week and has asked people to only use these services if absolutely necessary.
Patient advocate Stephen McMahon said they had to take the HSE on face value — that they are doing everything they could to restore normal service.
“When you have up to 90,000 patients put out of the health system it is not easy to fit them in again,” said Mr McMahon, chairman and co-founder of the Irish Patients Association.
“It’s not like a cancelled airline flight where people can be slotted in again over a number of days. So the knock-on effect of this strike will continue for some time.”
Mr McMahon has been dealing with a number of patients who needed treatment for serious conditions.
He helped a mother get her baby prepared for a heart operation and successfully intervened in another case where a baby had a tumour on its spine.
Mr McMahon said the nurses’ strike action had caused huge stress among those affected.
“I expect both the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the HSE to give regular updates on progress made to deal with the backlog,” he said.
Mr Harris said he would be working closely with his department and the HSE to put “recovery plans” in place now that the threat of further strike action by nurses has been averted.
Asked about people who had been notified that their procedures or appointments were cancelled, Mr Harris said hospitals are “very eager” to get people back in as quickly as they possibly could.