Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has called on the Minister for Health to work with health sector stakeholders and across government to develop a targeted infrastructure and reform plan for tackling hospital overcrowding.
He also called on the Minister to ensure urgent publication of the HSE’s 2022 National Service Plan to deliver quick investment and reform to target the worst affected hospitals.
He said an overcrowding strategy must be part of any waiting list reduction plan, as overcrowding is a major cause of cancellations.
This comes as the number of patients waiting on hospital trolleys in ward corners and corridors has broken 600 for the first time this year, nearing the crisis peak of January 2020.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“More than 600 patients were left waiting for a hospital bed this morning, which means that hospital overcrowding is reaching levels we haven’t seen since January 2020.
“Time and again, the same regional hospitals are top of the list – Limerick, Galway, Letterkenny, Cork, Sligo and Kilkenny.
“This regional inequality has been caused by decades of neglect and underinvestment, which has left hospitals short on space and physical capacity.
“Hospitals are crying out for investment in physical infrastructure to expand capacity, to deliver more beds and hire more staff. They simply do not have the space to manage the emergency department crisis in a safe way.
“Overcrowding is a major cause of cancellations of surgeries – when overcrowding is high enough, beds which are reserved for patients with scheduled treatment must be used for emergency care.
“In the short term, the HSE 2022 Service Plan must include targeted measures for tackling emergency department overcrowding – both investment and reform are needed.
“In the medium term, the government must work with stakeholders to implement a strategy which must include investment in our major hospitals to expand acute hospital capacity and reforms in community care to keep patients out of hospital where possible.
“Any strategy for reducing waiting lists must include this essential component to stop ED overcrowding from interfering in scheduled care.
“This will require a joined-up approach across government departments, the HSE, and the health sector to ensure that major health infrastructure projects and reforms are advanced quickly and that funding is released without delay.”