'Lives at risk due to lack of intensive-care beds'
Patients' lives are being put at risk because of a serious lack of intensive-care beds, a leading hospital consultant has warned.
Dr Tom Ryan, the new president of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, said the reduction in intensive-care beds in recent years contrasted sharply with the recommendations of a major HSE-commissioned report in 2009, which called for an immediate 45pc increase in their numbers and a doubling by 2020.
"These recommendations have not been acted upon," warned Dr Ryan, who works as a consultant in intensive care and anaesthesia in St James's Hospital, Dublin.
Doctors have frequently pointed out that the shortage leads to a cancellation of urgent surgery and impacts on some cancer patients, whose operations have to be postponed.
A patient who may have to be placed on ventilation outside an intensive care unit is exposed to greater risks. The problem is exacerbated by a lack of staff which has led to a closure of beds.
Figures obtained by Deputy Jack Chambers, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin West, show that around 25 beds are closed because of nursing shortages and recruitment difficulties.
Dr Ryan, who trained at the Mayo Clinic in the United States, said the brain drain of health staff was having a major impact on hospitals .
Doctors left to attempt to deliver safe care, he said, are "continuously aware of the mismatch between the available physical and human resources and the needs of their patients.
"The urgency for investment cannot be overstated in view of the inexorable increase in demand for acute medical care."
Meanwhile, a growing number of rural doctors are working for no income, the new chairman of the Dáil's Health Committee says.
Dr Michael Harty says young GPs are leaving the country in their droves and those too "glued" to their communities are working for free.
Speaking on the 'Floating Voter' podcast on Independent.ie, the Clare TD said: "There are many GPs in this country who don't take an income from their practice. They actually don't make any money from it."