Health Minister apologises to hundreds of patients waiting for hospital beds

Simon Harris says patients wants a plan rather than an "act of contrition from a Minister of Health"

Health Minister apologises to hundreds of patients waiting for hospital beds

Simon Harris. Photo: Sam Boal/

Updated 19.20

The Health Minister has apologised to the hundreds of patients waiting on trolleys this week.

The flu season has yet to peak, with a particularly troublesome strain also being seen in hospitals.

Recent days have seen overcrowding in hospitals reach record levels, while figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) released earlier today showed 592 people waiting on trolleys or wards for a hospital bed around the country.

Simon Harris has spoken with the CEOs of the country's hospital groups, ahead of what he describes as a 'crucial weekend'.

Speaking this afternoon, Minister Harris said what we're seeing in hospitals this week is not acceptable.

He noted: "The situations [patients] are in are not acceptable, but what we need to do is come up with solutions.

"Of course [I'm apologising] - but I very much believe patients don't want an act of contrition from a Minister of Health [...] What they want is a plan, and they want a Minister with a plan - I want to assure them that I have that, and 2018 will see that advance."

More immediately, Minister Harris says he is concerned about the situation ahead of schools reopening next week.

He explained: "I am worried about the spread of the flu when kids go back to school.

"We're seeing a strain of flu that is affecting children this year we didn't see last year. I would advise parents, if your child is under the weather, please keep them home from school next week."

He added: "It is important if you have the flu in general, try not to spread it: stay at home; take advice on; consult your pharmacist and GP - don't just go to the ED, unless advised to do so my a medical professional."

The Health Minister also insisted resources will be put into improving the health sector.

He observed: "I find it beyond puzzling that during Celtic Tiger Ireland, when this country had more money than sense, we reduced the number of hospital beds and we never built a new hospital. What we need now is a hospital building programme.

"I want to build more hospitals, I want to build more beds, I want to staff those beds - we now have the funding to be able to do that... It's crazy that it didn't happen during the last economic boom - I'm promising the people it will happen during this time of economic growth."

The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO), meanwhile, is calling for additional beds, investment in General Practice, and measures to address recruitment and retention of doctors.

IMO President Dr Ann Hogan argued: "This is not a trolley crisis – this is a system in meltdown. No single measure will address the problem in any significant way. We have to tackle the three core issues at the same time to make any progress.

“Time for analysing the problem is over what we need is an increasing and sustained funding programme.”