Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health David Cullinane TD has criticised the Government’s failure to fund the delivery of the 1,500 hospital beds that are needed according to a recent ESRI analysis of bed capacity. He said that the Government made the decision to not fund these beds in Budget 2024.
Teachta Cullinane was commenting after the Minister for Health confirmed to him in the Dáil that sites were identified for the beds, and expressions of interest were sought for their development, but that no funding was forthcoming from Government to deliver them.
He also criticised the serious delays to the Government identifying a site for the elective centre in Dublin, despite selecting sites in Cork and Dublin in December 2022.
The TD for Waterford said that the Government has failed to allocate any significant additional funding for new beds since the announcement in 2020 for 1,200 beds, of which 147 are remaining to be delivered this year. He said that many hospitals, such as UHL, are facing significant bed deficits and that addressing the shortage of beds is essential to tackling overcrowding and reducing waiting lists.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“There is a 1,000-bed deficit in hospitals at present, and a need for at least 500 additional beds by the end of next year to keep pace with growing demand and to make space for tackling waiting lists.
“The Government made a decision in Budget 2024 to not fund the 1500 beds that were clearly identified as needed by the latest bed capacity analysis by the ESRI. Their decision to underfund the health service is delaying the beds needed to make hospitals safer.
“The work has been done by the HSE and Department officials to identify sites and contractors, and the Minister confirmed that expressions of interest were sought and that this was highly successful. Yet he has no money to progress these projects because he and the Government failed to prioritise health capacity in the Budget for 2024.
“The last time the Government announced any significant funding for new beds was in 2020, when 1200 new beds were announced. We are still waiting on the full delivery of that commitment, with 147 beds due this year. That is far short of the targets which should be in place.
“For example, we know that University Hospital Limerick is facing a current shortfall of around 230 inpatient beds. There is no plan to fully plug that deficit. Bed capacity is a major part of the solution, in some hospitals, for overcrowding and long waiting lists. We know there are many other issues across management of resources and deficits in primary and community care, but a safe and efficient level of bed capacity is critical.
“To make matters worse, there has been very little progress on the elective centres. The Government has yet to identify the site for Dublin. It is over a year since sites were identified in Cork and Galway. Every delay to elective centres is a delay to reducing cancellations, overcrowding, and waiting times.
“This Government lacks the ambition and the pace of delivery that are needed to fix the health service. Every month longer they remain in office is another month of missed opportunity for the health service.”