Government comes under criticism in Dáil over health service scandals

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald accuses Minister for Health of ‘sitting on his hands’

Opposition leaders have hit out at the Government over the succession of scandals in the health service in recent weeks and the trolley crisis in hospitals.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said 1,100 patients aged 75 or over were left on trolleys for 24 hours or more in January and that the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly "sits on his hands" and the HSE "fails to act".

Ms McDonald said the trolley crisis "hasn't fallen out of the sky" and that the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation had been "ringing the alarm bell at Government for weeks".

She said the Government was “failing miserably” to deal with the crisis.


Social Democrats co-leader Catherine Murphy said week after week "we're hearing a differen scandal".

Ms Murphy said there have been a succession of scandals in the health service in the news recently, pointing to concerns over HSE management for north west disability services, the south Kerry Camhs issues, the Brandon report and the 'Grace' case.

The Kildare North TD said all of the scandals had a central feature - "there's no accountability and there's a lack of consequences".

She said “real accountability” needed to be built into the system with “real consequences”, including the possibility of prosecution.

Ms Murphy said those who were harmed by the system and whistleblowers wanted more than compensation and wanted to ensure that people would be held personally responsible and wouldn’t be there to repeat the same failure.

Ms McDonald said Cork University Hospital had registered its highest number of patients since the trolley count began on Tuesday and asked what exactly was the health minister and the HSE doing.

"You tell us that we have to pay big bucks to get big results, so Minister Donnelly is paid €225,000, Paul Reid [is paid] €412,000, Robert Watt secretary general of the department [is paid] €298,000,"she told the Taoiseach.

“I believe when you pay that kind of money, you should get results and get the job done and yet promise after promise has been made but we still have a crisis in GP provision, we don’t have rough inpatient beds,enough community recovery beds and the scandal of trolleys continue.”

Mr Martin said there had been "without question" record attendances in emergency services over the last month and the situation was very challenging.

He said people had not presented themselves to hospital at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic and there would now be delayed diagnoses over the coming weeks and months.

Mr Martin said bed capacity and investment in health had both increased at record levels. He said there did have to be accountability in the health system and the scandals referenced by Ms Murphy were “very serious”.

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns

Sarah Burns is a reporter for The Irish Times