Sunday 22 October 2017

Patients waiting on trolleys falls below 400 with more beds to become available

Simon Harris has impressed Fine Gael colleagues at a young age, but now faces the biggest test of his political career. Photo: Colin O’Riordan
Simon Harris has impressed Fine Gael colleagues at a young age, but now faces the biggest test of his political career. Photo: Colin O’Riordan

Philip Ryan and Ryan Nugent

Health Minister Simon Harris says that 28 additional beds are being made available in Galway today with further beds set to be available in the coming weeks.

After a record number of 612 people were left on trolleys across the country on Tuesday, Mr Harris said the HSE “needs to do better”.

“The significant surge that has happened in recent days, it is fair to say the health service wasn’t adequately prepared,” he said.

“That’s not apportioning blame -  it’s stating what is now the obvious this week.

“That’s why I said to the HSE, yes we need to continue to drive on the winter initiative but you also need to do exceptional measures, you need to go above and beyond and I’m sorry what Irish patients had to experience this week; I’m sorry what staff had to experience.

“Lessons need to be learned, we need to redouble our efforts, the HSE need to do better and will do better but most importantly these measures that the HSE has announced are tangible measures that can take place immediately to try and improve the situation,” he added.

Mr Harris has moved to distance himself from Transport Minister Shane Ross’s suggestion that he would “kick ass” to solve the hospital trolley crisis.

He dismissed the Independent Alliance Minister’s comments and insisted he would rather focus on taking actions than engaging in “buzzwords or political soundbites”.

Speaking ahead of an emergency HSE taskforce meeting, Mr Harris said: “This is an extraordinarily, serious and difficult situation for patients.”

“People who are ill have found themselves on hospital trolleys and staff have found themselves working in extraordinarily pressurised environments so rather than engaging in buzzwords or political soundbites I want to engage in substantive actions,” he added.

The minister’s comments came as the number of people languishing on hospital trolleys fell below 400.

The 395 figure is down 6pc on the same day last year.

University Hospital Limerick continues to be the worst-hit hospital with a total of 41 patients on trolleys, while the Mater is now the worst-hit hospital in the Dublin with a trolley count of 25.

Letterkenny General Hospital and University Hospital Galway also recorded high trolley numbers with 30 and 31, respectively.

The minister said he wanted to "break the vicious cycle that has dogged" his predecessors in the Department of Health.

He said he wanted to put in place the building blocks to break the cycle - by adding bed capacity and staff to overcrowded HSE hospitals across the country.

Also heading into the crunch talks at Dr Steeven's Hospital in Dublin, Stephen McMahon of the Irish Patients Association said the meeting was vital given the "unprecedented" levels of patients on trolleys.

He said the meeting would be "very open and very frank" so as to understand why the number of patients on trolleys were almost triple what they has hoped.

Liam Doran of the Irish Nurses and Midwives organisation said hospitals are 3,500 nurses short and said consultants must be available all weekend as he went into the meeting.

"Between now and the end of March we've got to really change work practices, we've got to have longer extended day presences of consultants, we've got to have cross consultant discharge of patients at weekends and out of hours, we've got to have nurses led discharge during the week," he said.

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