Minister says smoky coal ban will help solve hospital bed crisis

Denis Naughten claims patients with respitory conditions take one in eight beds

‘The more beds we provide in our hospitals, the more that will be filled’, Minster for  the Environment Denis  Naughten has said. File photograph: Collins

‘The more beds we provide in our hospitals, the more that will be filled’, Minster for the Environment Denis Naughten has said. File photograph: Collins

 

Moves to ban smoky coal all over the country will help tackle the problem of hospital overcrowding, Minster for Communications, Climate Change and the Environment Denis Naughten has said.

He also suggested that merely increasing the number of beds in hospitals will only ensure they are filled, and that greater importance needs to be attached to preventing illness.

Mr Naughten said the move he is introducing from September, along with other measures being rolled out by his Department, will help improve public health and keep people away from hospitals in the long run.

“The more beds we provide in our hospitals, the more that will be filled,” he said. “I am not suggesting that we curtail the number of beds, but what I am saying is that we are not doing enough to prevent people from getting sick in the first place.

“We have to change how the whole health system works and this can only happen by looking at the problem in far broader terms. This starts by trying to prevent people from getting sick in the first instance.”

The Roscommon TD said two measures he is pursuing will specifically “target those with respiratory conditions”, with one in every eight hospital beds being filled by those with such problems.

One measure is the ban on smoky coal, which will be rolled out over a twelve-month period from September.

“It is the health of the most vulnerable groups in society that is jeopardised the most by poor air quality: the sick; toddlers and children; older people and those with disabilities,” he said.

Another initiative is the pilot “warmth and well-being scheme” which is currently operating in Dublin. It offers grants for those aged above 55, and parents of children under 12, who are in receipt of the fuel allowance and one parent family payment to upgrade their homes and make them more energy efficient.

“Those who have availed of the scheme are reporting that they’re using less antibiotics, feeling warmer overall and the air in their homes is fresher,” Mr Naughten said. “The anecdotal evidence is also showing that those who benefited from the scheme are attending A&E less and are also less likely to be admitted to hospital.”