Thursday 12 December 2019

Nearly 2,600 more hospital beds needed to end trolley crisis

Stock photo
Stock photo

Eilish O’Regan and John Downing

Nearly 2,600 extra acute hospital beds will be needed by 2031- but the number could be as high as 7,000 unless the health service is reformed, a new report has warned.

The beds are needed if hospitals are to bring the trolley crisis and waiting lists under control.

The Department of Health- commissioned report also says the beds must be boosted with a 48pc rise in the primary care workforce, 13,000 more nursing home beds and a 120pc rise in home care support.

The review was brought to Cabinet for discussion by Health Minister Simon Harris today but no funding has yet been committed to it.

It also warns that hospitals currently operate at 95pc leaving them with no surge capacity when overcrowding hits.

This must be tackled in the short term, the report warns.

Mr Harris said that investment and reform must go hand in hand if we are to break the cycle of hospital overcrowding.

He added: ”Commissioning this Bed Capacity Review was a priority for me. It looks at capacity needs of the health service not just now, but up to 2031. This kind of analysis is integral to future planning.

“The completion of this review is timely as we enter a new period of investment in our public services and it clearly outlines the need for investment and reform in the Irish healthcare system and provides quantitative evidence for this.

“We know we have entered a relatively new phase of demographic ageing in Ireland. Our population also continues to grow. These changes will have particular impacts on the demand for health services, as older age cohorts tend to be the highest users of most health services.

“The findings of this review are broadly consistent with a separate analysis of future demand for healthcare undertaken by the ESRI last year and give us a clear indication of the extent of demand increases to expect.”

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has accused the Health Service Executive of seeking an extra €1.5bn per year to “do nothing at all.”

“That is not sustainable,’’ Mr Varadkar told the Dáil.

He warned the Health Service Executive (HSE) that it cannot continue seeking extra Government money without health service reforms.

Mr Varadkar was replying to Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who said the HSE had warned days ago that it was facing difficulties of up to €881m this year.

Mr Martin said the potential shortfall demonstrated a “very flawed and essentially opaque” approach to health service funding.

“At the very least, they show a very poor sticking plaster being applied,’’ the Fianna Fáil leader added.

Mr Varadkar said better management, proper clinical leadership, real accountability and proper responsibility were needed from the people in charge of managing the health services. 

He said the HSE was unique among state services in estimating that it required such a level of extra money each year.

The Taoiseach added that if the health services were to be turned around, and change implemented, the starting point could not be a 10pc budget increase.

He said the changes and accountability required would be driven by the Government.

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News