More than 550 people on trolleys in Irish hospitals on Monday, says INMO

Harris says situation ‘unacceptable’ but he is confident money can be found to invest in more beds

Minister for Health Simon Harris has said 2018 will be the "year of reform" for the Irish health system following a chaotic period in which record levels of patients were on hospital trolleys.

A meeting of the Emergency Department Taskforce on Monday decided on a number of measures to be "intensified" over the coming days in an attempt to control overcrowding.

In a statement Mr Harris said these would include the opening of additional beds in a number of hospitals, including St James’s, the Mater and Beaumont, and the utilisation of beds in private hospitals.

There are also plans to increase the number of senior clinical decision-makers available at evenings and weekends, as well as enhanced access to diagnostics and increased access to transitional care beds.


The taskforce met just hours after latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) placed the number of people on trolleys in emergency departments and wards at 555.

On Friday there were 483 patients awaiting admission, down from a record 677 last Wednesday.

Separate figures compiled by the HSE on Monday morning put the figure at 426 by 8am, which it said was 10 per cent higher than the same day last year.

Before the meeting Mr Harris said the situation remained “unacceptable”, but that he was confident money could be found to invest in bed capacity, an issue he would address when he brings a review report to Cabinet in the coming weeks.

“We have spent the last year putting the building blocks [for change] in place. 2018 now will be the year of reform,” he said.

The Minister said he has outlined three priorities for the year – increasing bed capacity, implementing reform through Sláintecare and increasing services provided through primary care by negotiating a new GP contract.

He acknowledged it was now an “ongoing situation we have in relation to overcrowding”, but said once the current “very difficult patch” had been navigated, attention must shift toward developing a strategy that would avert repetition.


"There was an ideology in this country during the Celtic Tiger that talked about reducing the number of hospital beds so it wasn't just during the recession. People made conscious policy decisions to reduce the number of hospital beds in the Irish healthcare system. That was stupid, it was ludicrous."

This winter 195 additional beds have been opened, and health authorities are considering more in places such as Waterford.

The provision of an additional 2,500 beds over the next decade could cost some €800 million.

“The cost of beds obviously varies depending on whether it’s an ICU bed, a high-dependency bed, a long-term bed in the community. So there will be a variety of costs, but I am committed to opening more beds,” the Minister said.

On the issue of financing such a move, he said: “I am very confident that if I work with colleagues, the Taoiseach and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform particularly, that we will find a way of progressing this.”

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times