Wednesday 21 August 2019

Government 'failed spectacularly' to deal with health system crisis, Dail hears

Minister Brendan Howlin
Minister Brendan Howlin

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

The Government has been accused of having “failed spectacularly” to deal with the crisis in our health system during a heated Dáil debate.

Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin was forced to defend the Coalition’s record in the facing of questions about how a 91-year-old man was left on a trolley for 29 hours, a 25-year-old man died after an ambulance was delayed responding to an emergency call and an 87-year-old was allegedly sexually assaulted after being placed in an all-male ward.

Mr Howlin confirmed that a garda investigation is underway into the alleged assault on a grandmother in South Tipperary General hospital.

It is claimed that the frail patient was pinned to her bed by a partially naked man in his 70s who told her ‘stay still, this won’t take long’.

The Dáil heard today the male patient remains in hospital and is being monitored around the clock by staff.

Mr Howlin also outlined what he understands to the circumstances around the death of a father of two Dualtagh Donnelly (25) in Dundalk.

He cut an artery in his right arm and he began losing a lot of blood very quickly. An ambulance was called but it took 23 minutes for an advanced paramedic to arrive at the scene even though the family live five minutes from an ambulance base. It took another 16 minutes for an ambulance to arrive.

According to Mr Howlin the call was classified as “life-threatening” but two ambulances were off the road in the region on the night because of short-notice absentees.

The minister said each case needed to be looked at individually and that “for some time, as a government, we’ve been looking at our hospital emergency departments as a priority”.

He said: “We must have a grown up debate in this house and maybe one day we will about how we effectively deploy resources.

“We spend more money in our health services than the averages in the OECD even though our health demographics are poorer.”

However, Mr Howlin came under sustained attack from Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin who said the problems were getting worse.

Fianna Fáil Dara Calleary said Taoiseach Enda Kenny had joined Health Minister Leo Varadkar “in being a commentator from the sidelines on the state of the country’s health system”.

“This is happening everywhere. There are ambulance delays all over the country.

“We are at the beginning of November, the kind of pressure we are seeing in A&Es don’t usually suffice until December or January,” he said.

Pearse Doherty of Sinn Féin said that the crisis hit the national headlines when an elderly person is left on a trolley but asked: “Is it acceptable that we would allow a 50 year old, or a 15 year old to be left on a trolley for 29 hours?”

Mr Howlin rejected the criticisms saying the Opposition parties were “only interested in shouting about problems and not putting forward solutions”.

“They thrive in the having no solutions,” the Labour TD said, adding: “It arising in every accident and emergency service across the globe. If the deputies opened their eyes they’d see that.”

He said that the Government had provided funding for the Fair Deal scheme, to open extra beds and to recruit staff in the health service.

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