The Taoiseach has admitted that the case for extra beds in Irish hospitals is “indisputable.”
More than 550 patients were waiting on trolleys in emergency departments across the country again this morning.
Record numbers of people have been left on trolleys this winter, with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) warning that the first week of 2018 was the worst ever for hospital overcrowding.
This morning, the cabinet discussed how best to alleviate the issue in the long term.
Following the meeting, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar admitted there needs to be greater capacity:
“I want to say that the case for extra beds in our hospitals is indisputable,” he said.
“Even if there was no overcrowding in our hospitals we would still need more bed capacity.
“That is down to the fact that we have a growing population, an aging population and every year the health service is able to do more things.”
Funded workforce plan
Following last year’s winter season the Health Minister Simon Harris pledged to ensure an additional 1,200 nurse would be hired into the health service by the end of 2017.
The HSEs efforts to bring in the additional staff have failed – and the INMO has consistently warned that nurses will not be tempted to return to Ireland until the pay and conditions on offer are improved.
The overcrowding hit a record high last Wednesday with 677 people are waiting on trolleys.
The figures are made all the more by the fact the country has yet to see the peak of the flu season.
Yesterday it emerged that a 94 year old man spent more than 10 hours on a trolley at University Hospital Galway.
Despite the ongoing crisis, this morning the Minister for Social Protection Regina Doherty insisted that everything that can be done is being done.
“The Minister for health is in constant contact with the emergency taskforce,” she said.
“A number of senior clinician decision makers have now been put on rosters on the weekend and in the evening time to make sure that we turn around people and make sure that decisions are made in a timely fashion.
“The amount of beds that we have that can be opened are being opened and we are currently going through a recruitment process to actually get the staff to open those beds.”
As of September, the HSE had succeeded in bringing in 13 of the 1,224 additional nursing hires the Government agreed to have in place by 2018.
The figures for December are not yet available.