Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has said that the Government has its head in the sand and has no plan to tackle persistent and worsening hospital overcrowding.
Teachta Cullinane was commenting following the publication of the INMO’s Trolley Watch figures for February 6th, which showed 683 patients inappropriately admitted to hospital this morning.
The TD for Waterford said that 1,000 hospital beds are needed to address overcrowding “right now,” while up to 500 additional beds are needed every year according to the ESRI.
He added that officials in the HSE and the Department of Health have identified sites and suppliers, but that the Government has refused to fund the necessary investment in bed capacity.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“This morning’s INMO Trolley Watch count is another stark reminder of this Government’s blinkered approach to investing in healthcare.
“More than 680 patients were languishing on trolleys or otherwise inappropriately admitted to hospital this morning, including more than 130 at University Hospital Limerick.
“We know that many patients attend hospital because they cannot get a GP, and others repeatedly attend GPs because they are not getting treated at hospital. People are facing lengthy waiting lists for appointments, which are made worse by cancellations. All of this converges in the emergency department, where people go when they have run out of time and options.
“We know that there is a deficit of around 1,000 beds in the hospital system right now. We need another 500 beds a year to keep up with demand. This should be funded on a continuous basis to keep up with demographic changes, yet the Government has chosen not to do that.
“This Government has its head in the sand on hospital overcrowding and the trolley crisis. Officials in the Department of Health and the HSE have a plan for these beds. They know where they need to go. They know where to get the suppliers. They have already done this work but needed funding in Budget 2024. The Government did not want to know and refused to fund the necessary investment in bed capacity.
“While we need to reduce hospital demand and reorient care into the community, we cannot just stop expanding hospitals. Reforms will take time to bed in, GPs are already stretched, and community services are understaffed. Until there is a complete change in primary care to deliver early intervention services, people will continue to need hospitalisation in increasing numbers. There is no plan for this either, which is heaping more and more pressure on hospitals.
“The longer this Government is in office, the worse these problems will get and the longer they will take to solve.”