Irish Hospital Consultants Association issues stark warning over shortage of hospital beds
The number of extra hospital beds needed to provide an "internationally acceptable" health service is equivalent to six large hospitals, according to a group representing consultants.
Dr Tom Ryan, the president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), made the warning at the organisation’s annual conference in Kilkenny.
He said members of the public are being forced to accept "healthcare rationing" as hospitals prioritise balancing budgets.
The provision of safe and timely care for patients has been relegated to secondary consideration because of capacity issues, he added.
"The public has become immune to never-ending stories on the 'crisis' in our acute hospitals.
"However, the many unresolved problems in our hospitals are now at such a critical level that patient safety is compromised on a daily basis.
"Many of our hospitals are running at an internationally unacceptable occupancy rate of more than 95%, which has an adverse impact on patient safety."
Dr Ryan said funding cuts, together with the reduction in acute hospital beds, have resulted in a "stark mismatch" between patient needs and actual care.
"When the first priority of a hospital is to be 'within budget', then the result is longer waiting lists, trolley crises, overcrowding, cancellation of essential surgery and poor patient safety and care."
Healthcare governance in Ireland must be urgently strengthened, he added.
Dr Ryan also reiterated the IHCA's call for the proposed 10-year healthcare plan to address the shortage of hospital beds.
"The strategy must include a blueprint outlining the increased capacity and a yearly commissioning timetable," he said.
"Anything less than this means that the strategy will be seen as a ‘fudge’ that could set healthcare back for decades."