Supply of acute hospital beds is ahead of target, Donnelly tells hospital consultants

Sinn Fein’s David Cullinane says health service ‘in crisis management mode’ every winter

The State is “in advance of profile” on the delivery of several thousand acute hospital beds called for in the 2018 Health Service Capacity Review, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has told the Irish Hospital Consultants’ Association (IHCA) annual general meeting.

In his key-note address, Mr Donnelly told consultants more than 900 additional acute beds have been delivered since 2020, and the number which will exceed 1,050 by the end of the year. “Because of this, we are now in advance of profile on reaching the several thousand additional beds called for in the capacity review. Over the next three years we are again adding beds more quickly than the review calls for”, he said.

Paying tribute to the hospital consultants for their resilience and dedication over the years of the Covid pandemic, Mr Donnelly said he had read the consultants’ pre-budget submission prioritising “patient needs and the need for investment in workforce and physical capacity, in both acute and mental health services”.

He told the consultants: “I have, in my time as Minister, committed to addressing these same issues and to providing the resources required to allow you and all your colleagues provide the care people need”.


Outlining those resources Mr Donnelly said the Government was committed to increasing consultant numbers, saying the ratio of consultants to population in Ireland was far too low. “My view is that we need to increase our numbers by around 2,000″ he said.

Mr Donnelly said his preference for the creation of a new consultants’ contract “has always been to do so with the agreement of the IHCA, that is still the case”.

“The introduction of the new consultant contract will be a significant step forward, supporting our commitment to increasing consultant and support staff numbers significantly in the years ahead. The new contract must also enable us to deliver consultant services at times when our patients need the presence of these senior decision makers on site” he said.

Referring to the proposed introduction of universal healthcare he said “we need to do a number of things: These were to continue to navigate our way through Covid. To continue to cut the costs of healthcare to patients and to continue to expand clinical services like women’s healthcare, cancer care, dementia, stroke, trauma, diabetes and bariatrics.”

Mr Donnelly said it would also be necessary to target the waiting lists, hospitals and clinical areas that are not yet reducing lists and get them the support they need. Further, he said it was necessary to expand permanent capacity including beds, healthcare professionals and community care. Finally he said the State must “push on with the modernisation of our public health service through the regional health areas, the new consultant contract and more”.

Mr Donnelly said last Tuesday’s budget allocated more than €23 billion towards these goals as part of Ireland’s health and social care services. “This is the highest allocation of funding to the health service in the history of the state, and the largest allocation of any Government department. It highlights my commitment, and that of the Government, to our health service”.

Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane told the consultants that it was worth recapping that the health service was every winter, “in crisis management mode”. He said “there is no point in pretending that it is not in crisis management mode” which he said was visible by almost one million people on hospital waiting lists. “These numbers don’t lie”.

Mr Cullinane said the figures “paint a picture” of a health service that was really under severe pressure. He said Mr Donnelly and previous ministers had presented winter plans “and they haven’t delivered”. “What they are doing is outsourcing, throwing more money at the private sector and there is no plan to build in the capacity that we need”.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist