Delaying extra hospital beds 'could cost up to 4,000 lives'
Up to 4,000 patients could needlessly die if extra beds are delayed for another decade to tackle the A&E crisis, a leading doctor has warned.
Commenting on the report that went to Cabinet this week, calling for 2,600 more beds between now and 2031, Dr Emily O'Conor, spokeswoman for emergency consultants, said that if the new beds were not delivered for another 10 years it would condemn more patients to dying unnecessarily.
"It should be borne in mind that with the level of emergency department crowding that is sadly the norm in Ireland; it is likely that some 350 to 400 excess deaths are occurring each year based on the current population," she said.
Dr O'Conor, a consultant in Connolly Hospital in Dublin, warned that the inertia shown in addressing this glaringly obvious bed capacity deficit to date must not continue and political leadership was needed to ensure the necessary bed numbers - and the required healthcare professionals to staff them - were provided without further delay.
"Allowing the unacceptable situation to continue by suggesting that the new beds will not be commissioned for a decade will condemn a further 3,500 to 4,000 of our relatives, friends and neighbours to a premature and avoidable death.
"This is the equivalent of accepting that every man, woman and child in a town such as Birr, Clonakilty, Listowel or Macroom be allowed die unnecessarily," she warned.
Meanwhile, there were around 88 hospital beds closed across the country despite the trolley crisis, it emerged yesterday.
Around 32 beds are out of bounds due to staff shortages, including 16 in St Columcilles in Loughlinstown, Dublin, and the South Infirmary Cork, which do not have A&Es.
Other beds are closed for infection control purposes to prevent the spread of illness among patients while 32 are not in use due to refurbishment and maintenance.
The HSE said 156 additional beds had been opened and another 86 would come on stream.
It follows another day of overcrowding in hospitals yesterday as 601 patients waited for a bed.
It comes as a new campaign group has warned that the plight of people on trolleys is going from "bad to worse" and must be addressed.
The Still Waiting health campaign will hold a major conference on Saturday, bringing together a number of health campaign groups, political parties and trade unions to call for a radical reform of the health system.
The group is urging people to attend the conference on Saturday in Liberty Hall. Cyril Brennan, from Donegal, who is the co-ordinator of Still Waiting, said: "The situation is going from bad to worse and cannot be allowed to continue. What needs to happen is the Government need to reverse the pay cuts which were imposed on our frontline staff.
"We then need to massively recruit staff and open up many more wards and beds."