Intensive care hospital beds

A welcome move but numbers are still far less than ideal

Letters to the Editor. Illustration: Paul Scott

Sir, – Given how much people spend on insurance of various sorts, money willingly handed over to purchase peace of mind, it is remarkable how little our lack of intensive care beds appears to concern us. When you think about it, there are few if any things you might need as urgently.

Thus news that the national stock has risen to 330 beds is to be welcomed (“Intensive care hospital beds increased 30% in four years, report finds”, News, April 16th). Furthermore, plans to continue the expansion to reach 458 by 2031 indicate a recognition that the process isn’t complete.

While not wishing to appear ungrateful for this enormous investment, it is worth pointing out that the numbers are still far less than ideal. The Prospectus Report from 2009 (available online) identified a need for 579 such beds in order to meet societal demands by 2020. We remain a long way from where we ought to be. The real challenge is increasingly the staffing of such beds. Keeping an ICU bed open year round requires the employment of six nurses, and it is fair to say that it is among the most demanding of nursing specialties. Retention of such staff is difficult and attrition rates high.

I would greatly credit the current Minister on his work to date in this area and hope it continues.


On the positive side, as bed numbers improve and the associated pressures are alleviated, it should become a less arduous workplace and thus improve staff retention. It may represent one real gain our society made from the challenges raised by Covid. – Yours, etc,



Co Cork.