Why have years of high spending left Ireland still short of ICU beds?

Smart Money: Impact of high-cost Ireland and planning problems have all played their part

Staff in the Covid emergency department of St Vincent’s Hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic. File photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

Staff in the Covid emergency department of St Vincent’s Hospital during the Covid-19 pandemic. File photograph: Alan Betson/ The Irish Times

Ireland’s spending on health is towards the top of the international league, as a percentage of national output. But the latest Covid-19 wave has underlined the ongoing shortage of hospital capacity, particularly for intensive care unit (ICU) beds. So why has the big ramp up in health spending in recent years not delivered in terms of some of the key services – not only ICU beds but also accident and emergency (A&E) capacity and waiting lists for some key procedures? Before the crisis hit, ICU bed capacity here was near the bottom of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) league. 

A new report from the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council (IFAC) sheds some light, and raises some questions, which are vital to ensure the planned increases in spending in the years ahead pay-off in terms of better services.

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