Half of new hospital beds promised for winter still not open
Hospitals in Dublin, Cork, Waterford and Galway still to receive new beds
Just 40 beds of the 75 promised this winter have been delivered
Only half of the 75 new hospital beds promised by Minister for Health Simon Harris for this winter have so far materialised.
Hospitals in Waterford, Letterkenny, Tullamore, Dublin, Cork and Galway have yet to open any of the new beds that were promised as part of the HSE’s winter plan, according to Mr Harris.
Forty of the promised beds have been opened and the remainder will come on stream in early 2019, he told Sinn Féin health spokeswoman Louise O’Reilly in answer to a parliamentary question.
Under the HSE’s service plan, a further 78 beds are scheduled to come on stream by the middle of the year, he added, most of them in Clonmel and Drogheda.
But Ms O’Reilly said the additional 40 beds “wouldn’t even make a dint in the trolley numbers”.
Overall bed numbers in the Irish health system had dropped by over 1,100 beds between 2007 and last year, she said.
“We haven’t been able to get any answers on where these beds are located, if the spaces have been converted for other use and cannot be turned back into beds, and so forth, because PA Consultancy, who did the capacity reviews, told the Oireachtas health committee they weren’t instructed to do that.
“Trying to get a definitive response on bed numbers is hugely difficult. We’re nearly at the stage where we’ll go count them ourselves.”
Mr Harris said he recognised the pressures hospitals operating at near capacity were under.
“It is against this background that the Health Service Capacity Review 2018 recommended an increase in acute hospital beds of over 2,600 by 2031 to support the projected increase in demand for services in the years ahead.”
An additional 240 beds have been opened in the past 12 months, he said.
Among the beds promised but not yet opened this winter are eight in St Colmcille’s, Louglinstown, six each in University Hospital Waterford and Midland Regional Hospital Tullamore, and five in University Hospital Letterkenny.
In many cases, difficulties in recruiting and retaining qualified medical and nursing staff are the main reason for delaying opening new hospital beds.