Sinn Féin spokesperson on Health, David Cullinane TD, has called on the Minister for Health to urgently publish his plan to prevent widespread cancellations and overcrowding in hospitals next winter.
Teachta Cullinane said that the planning and investment needs to happen now and over the coming months to put hospitals in a position to cope with the winter surge in winter 2023/24.
The TD for Waterford made the call following publication of data, which shows that there were nearly 45,000 hospital appointments cancelled in December 2022 and January 2023. The data was released to Teachta Cullinane in response to a parliamentary question.
The data shows that there were 18,998 appointments cancelled in December and 25,850 appointments cancelled in January. In total, there were 7,241 surgeries, day appointments, and inpatient admissions cancelled, including more than 130 chemotherapy appointments.
Teachta Cullinane said:
“45,000 hospital cancellations in December and January is scandalous. It is a direct consequence of the lack of capacity in our hospitals to deal with a winter surge.
“These cancellations will increase waiting lists and waiting times for adults and children. It is alarming that 7,656 children had their appointments cancelled in December and January.
“The Minister for Health has failed to put in place the capacity in hospitals, primary care, and community care that is needed to avoid hospital overcrowding and the resulting mass cancellations.
“To tackle overcrowding and cancellations, the government needs to accelerate delivery of elective-only hospitals to decouple scheduled and unscheduled care where possible.
“In the short term, the Minister for Health should urgently publish his plan to prevent widespread cancellations and overcrowding in hospitals next winter. That must deal with delays in admissions, discharges, and everything in between.
“The Minister must ensure there are at least 800 additional hospital and community recovery beds in place by next winter. These are necessary to speed up emergency admissions into hospital, and transfers of care out of hospital into community recovery facilities.
“The Minister must also ensure the application of best management practices across hospitals. Hospitals like Waterford, St Luke’s in Kilkenny, and Letterkenny have each shown that much can be achieved with better management of existing resources.
“The planning and investment needs to happen now and over the coming months to put hospitals in a position to cope with the winter surge which we can predict will occur again in winter 2023/24.”