Taoiseach warns all hospital workers must work 'full whack' over Christmas holidays
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned all hospital workers - including consultants, nurses and back-up staff – that they must work "at full whack" over the Christmas holidays.
Mr Varadkar also specifically warned hospital consultant doctors and nurses, especially those in hospital emergency departments, they must not take leave in the first fortnight of the new year.
The Taoiseach said this was the kind of winter plan needed to confront upcoming problems in the hospital accident and emergency departments.
He defended the lack of a formal "winter plan" which Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, also a former health minister, said should have been in place since July.
Mr Varadkar said for the past 10 to 15 year there had been a winter plan – and it had not worked. "Then the last thing we need is another ‘winter plan'," the Taoiseach told the Dáil.
The Taoiseach said hospitals would be closed for seven of the 12 days between December 22 and January 3 next. This was because these closed days fell on either a Saturday, Sunday, or a bank holiday.
"What has been happening in our health service for 10 or 15 years is that hospitals effectively closed down for seven days out of 12. We need to change that," the Taoiseach insisted.
"We need to make sure, for the first time ever, that during that period the radiology departments and labs are open and working at full whack, that consultants are not on holidays in the first week of the year, particularly those who work in the emergency departments and that nurses are not on leave in the first two weeks of January," the Taoiseach continued.
"We need to make sure that every bed is open. That is the kind of winter plan we need - not the kind we have had for years and years that does not work," Mr Varadkar added.
The Fianna Fáil leader said the health services were in crisis with large numbers of elderly people on trolleys and young children waiting for care.
He said €50m earmarked by Health Minister, Simon Harris, for the provision of extra hospital beds had not been spent but was re-allocated to other sectors.
Mr Martin also pointed to criticisms of the Health Minister by former HSE boss Tony O’Brien.
He also stressed the failure to come up with a "winter plan" four months after the November deadline.