The Government has pledged to open almost 700 additional permanent inpatient and critical care beds by the end of this year following a record increased health budget of €4billion.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said the additional beds would represent a 25 per cent increase in critical care capacity in a single year. He has pledged 1,146 extra beds by the end of next year.
The Department of Health said the HSE indicated that of these, 650 inpatient beds would open by the end of this year along with 37 extra critical care beds.
When asked if these beds would be opened by the end of the year, Mr Donnelly said they would and that some were already open on a temporary basis. Mr Donnelly said the new beds would require significant levels of recruitment but the target was to hire 16,000 extra workers.
When asked if he was confident vacancies could be filled, he said training programmes would have to be expanded, graduates would have to stay in Ireland and the health system would also have to hire from abroad.
Of the additional €4 billion secured in Budget 2021, some €467 million of this will go towards permanently funding 2,600 beds in acute and community settings including €52 million for critical care beds. There will also be €100 million allocated for people with disabilities. Overall there would be an increase of 16,000 posts in the health workforce, the Department said. In terms of Covid-19, a total of €1.7 billion will be put aside.
“The investments made today will mean that when this pandemic ends, Ireland will have a better, more resilient healthcare system, one which has the capacity required to meet the changing needs of the population and which has permanently embedded reform,” Mr Donnelly said on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the director of the National Women’s Council Orla O’Connor has welcomed a €5 million dedicated fund for women’s health.
“This will be vital to implement the actions of the Women’s Health Taskforce and help to create a more women centred health service, including mental health,” she said.
“We know that women live longer with more years of ill health, that women are affected in greater number by depression and anxiety and that women provide the majority of care to family members. We also need to address the health inequalities of particular groups of women including Traveller women, homeless women, disabled women and socially disadvantaged women.”
An extra €12 million has also been allocated for maternity, gynaecology and fertility services.
On Covid 19, Mr Donnelly said that conversations with private hospitals were ongoing but that contracts for potential use of the facilities should be in place “very soon”.
He said the Government and HSE were considering whether or not to extend the arrangement with the Citywest Covid-19 isolation facility. Mr Donnelly said the extra funding made available for Covid-19 measures and for extra beds “gives the HSE space now to consider what the options are through the winter and into next year”.