Intensive care hospital beds increased 30% in four years, report finds

Relative lack of ICU beds in hospitals became an issue during the height of the Covid pandemic

The number of intensive care unit (ICU) beds in the State’s hospitals has increased by almost 30 per cent over the past four years, according to a memorandum being brought before Cabinet on Tuesday.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will present a progress report on the strategic plan for critical care. Its main finding is that there are now 330 ICU beds in operation across the State, 72 more than the 258 that were in place in 2020.

The relative lack of ICU beds in hospitals became an issue during the height of the Covid pandemic where there were concerns that Ireland had insufficient critical care capacity to cope with the large number of patients who had become critically ill from Covid-19.

An additional 770 staff had been recruited by the end of 2023 across various hospital locations to support the ICU beds.


Mr Donnelly will tell colleagues that a further 22 beds are scheduled to be delivered under the HSE’s National Service Plan 2024. That will bring the total number of beds to 352 by the end of phase one.

The strategic plan has committed to deliver an increase in critical care capacity to 458 in total by 2031.

Mr Donnelly will also seek Government approval to authorise pharmacists to prescribe in certain circumstances. A new Health Bill proposes to allow pharmacists to prescribe some medicines along with doctors, dentists and some nurses. An Expert Taskforce on Pharmacy last year recommended the extension of prescription powers to pharmacists.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin will seek Government approval for an extended mission for Ireland’s peacekeepers serving at UNIFIL in Lebanon. The mission is to be extended for another year from May. Mr Martin will tell colleagues he also proposes to send an additional 33 Defence Forces personnel on the missions. This is partly motivated by the heightened threat level currently in place in the region.

Mr Martin, in his role as Minister for Foreign Affairs, will also share a report on the St Patrick’s Day programme abroad. The report has stated it was the largest overseas programme to date, with almost 1,000 events in 45 countries.

As part of the Women’s Health Action Plan 2, Mr Donnelly will also propose increasing the upper age limit of the free contraception scheme from 31 years to 35 years. He will also propose developing the first public-assisted human reproduction treatment centre.

Minister for Integration Roderic O’Gorman will bring a memo seeking a lease extension of one year to the Citywest reception centre in Dublin. Some 81,000 Ukrainian refugees and 8,000 asylum seekers have passed through the former hotel complex. Currently 560 international protection applications and 1,600 Ukrainian refugees are accommodated there. The State has been the main client for Citywest, owned by Tetrarch Capital, since the pandemic in 2020.

Minister for Education Norma Foley will seek approval for a Bill that will give ongoing support to survivors of abuse in residential institutions, including an “enhanced medical card”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times