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Hospitals will have to keep wards open this summer to catch up

Thousands of people had their planned procedures postponed to help ease pressure on emergency departments, it has emerged.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar said that he did not have the exact numbers yet, but a "couple of thousand" people were affected.

Earlier this month, the numbers on trolleys and wards reached a record 601.

The minister said that there were 333 people on trolleys yesterday, and about 150 were waiting for more than nine hours.

"That is nowhere near as bad as it was at the start of the month but it's still pretty bad even for January," he said.

The minister said the situation is going to need constant attention throughout the year.

Speaking about patients who had their procedures postponed, he said that elective activity is always less in January anyway because of the fact that its busier from the emergency departments.

"But we will need to ramp up activity.

"Generally wards are closed during the summer. I think that probably won't be possible this year, we need to keep them open in order to catch up on that elective activity," Mr Varadkar said.

priorities

The minister published the health priorities for the year ahead yesterday for the Department of Health.

One of the priorities is to take the first concrete steps to provide a universal health service by extending GP services without fees to all under sixes and GP services without fees to the over seventies.

"One of the key things we want to do is bring the GPs with us and I think that's really important," he said.

Those discussions are quite advanced, according to Mr Varadkar.

Meanwhile, it emerged that nurses at Beaumont Hospital will defer planned industrial action after an agreement was reached at the Labour Relations Commission.

The action was scheduled to begin next week, but management at the northside hospital have now agreed to increase staffing levels in the Emergency Department.

fdillon@herald.ie


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