More beds will ease hospital trolley waits
Some of the hospitals suffering the worst overcrowding and trolley waits will finally get extra beds.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar confirmed that University Hospital Galway is to get another 30 beds by the end of the year.
And Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda will get additional beds in a modular unit over the coming months.
It comes after record numbers of patients were left waiting for a hospital bed in recent months.
Mr Varadkar said the pressure to free up existing beds will be further eased by transferring more patients who no longer need acute care to facilities such as nursing homes.
The number of these patients in hospital has reduced from 850 to 600. Additional community supports will also be stepped up to use the beds that hospitals have more efficiently.
Mr Varadkar was speaking alongside Defence Minister Simon Coveney as he announced that the national air ambulance helicopter will operate on a permanent basis after being tested since mid-2012.
The service, costing €2.6m, helps ensure that seriously ill people in remote areas are brought to hospital for expert care as quickly as possible.
It mostly takes patients to Galway, but other landing sites will also be needed. It has completed over 1,055 missions to date - including 323 heart attack patients. The service is targeted mainly at western counties.
"The service has been great for patients and ensures that those in remoter areas, particularly in the west, have timely access to specialised treatment in the larger hospitals," said Mr Coveney.