23 January 2018
By Bryan Smyth
Cork North Central based Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher TD has said that while the announcement of 2600 additional beds is welcome, the ability of the HSE and the Department of Health to deliver beds in the short term will be the measure of Minister Harris’s commitment to end overcrowding in our hospitals.
“We need an urgent audit of all public hospitals in the country to identify quick wins in terms of additional capacity.
“There are wards that have been closed in the past that require little or no capital investment to reopen. Of course, the challenge will be to staff them appropriately, but these wards must be the short term, immediate priority for the Government.
“There will naturally be a need to plan for major capital investments in existing hospitals, and for potential new public hospitals based on demographic growth projections.
“However, we need advanced planning for additional capacity in late 2018 and early 2019 to deal with the crisis that is sure to hit our public hospitals next winter.
“Additionally, he must seriously consider making better use of our community hospital network. Not every patient needs the same level of care and oversight. This could free up desperately needed beds in our acute hospital network.
“Today, with 668 people lying on trolleys, and with 27 of our 29 adult hospitals reporting people lying on trolleys, the need for the urgent delivery of additional bed capacity is all too evident.
“This bed review took a very long time to be completed, finalised and published. The next stage cannot be allowed take so long.
“I am calling on Minister Harris to give a commitment to undergo an audit, if he hasn’t already done so, of existing hospitals to identify opportunities to open new beds in previously closed or re-orientated facilities.
“His Winter Initiative has failed miserably, and his Department and the HSE were woefully ill prepared for the flu pandemic that has gripped our country in the last five weeks.
“The Minister has now been in office for over 18 months; the time for excuses has long passed,” concluded Kelleher.