It's not as simple as more hospital beds - Varadkar
Published 04/12/2015 | 02:30
Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said that "all efforts" are being made to end the hospital trolley crisis but "obviously we need to do even better".
As a strike by emergency department nurses looms on December 15, Mr Varadkar said the protest can still be avoided.
He said doctors and nurses realise that there are a variety of causes behind the waiting times in emergency departments, but it is "clear that the situation is not as bad as it was in the early new year when there were 500 to 600 people on trolleys everyday".
Mr Varadkar was responding to independent TD Finian McGrath who told the Dáil of a 20-year-old man with cerebral palsy who is peg-fed, non-verbal and five stone in weight who had to leave Beaumont Hospital two days in a row without seeing a radiologist.
"There was nobody in the radiology department to deal with his needs at six o'clock on Saturday, October 31 last. His family members were so distressed that they had to take him home," Mr McGrath said.
"When they came back on Sunday, November 1, there was nobody in the radiology department again. They had to take him home again on the second day."
Eventually he got to see a doctor on the Monday but Mr McGrath said it was "not acceptable" for him to be treated in this way.
Mr Varadkar said he had visited the hospital twice recently to assess the situation.
"The doctors and nurses there acknowledge that many factors give rise to overcrowding.
It is not just about bed capacity; it is also about delayed discharges, length of stay and other issues," he said.
According to the minister: "On a bad day, there can be 30 or 40 people on trolleys at Beaumont Hospital. If it were as simple as providing extra beds, this problem should be solved by a reduction of 25 in the number of delayed discharges and the opening of 25 beds.
"That will not happen, however. There are many other factors at play. All of them need to be worked on as well."
He added that he understands "the pressure and frustration that has given rise to the strike ballot".
The ministers said the HSE will seek to minimise the impact of any industrial action but the strike could still be avoided.