This morning on "Morning Ireland" emergency medicine consultant, Dr. Fergal Hickey, said, "people are going to die as a result". He went on to say, "that is not scaremongering, it is a prediction of what is going to happen". Only six weeks ago, a €40 million winter initiative was announced and it was targeted to ensure there would not be overcrowding in our emergency departments throughout the winter months. However, as we face into the winter, which is only starting, we find this initiative is already failing, given there were 528 people on trolleys in emergency departments across the country yesterday.
In the past number of years, there have been consistent winter initiatives and each and every one of them has failed to make a meaningful impact on the number of people who are lying on trolleys in emergency departments. The HSE is at present involved in a bed capacity review. I would like the Minister to consider the idea that this would be independently assessed due to the fact the HSE is carrying it out for its own purposes. Will the Minister consider the independence of that review being verified given there may be ulterior motives due to the HSE addressing it itself?
Does the Minister agree that, over the coming weeks, further initiatives have to be put forward to ensure bed capacity is enhanced and there is a reduction in overcrowding in our emergency departments? It is a fact there is very low morale across the whole of the health service, particularly in emergency departments. There were 45 people on trolleys yesterday in Letterkenny and 45 in Cork, and the emergency department in Galway is consistently overcrowded and chaotic. Overall, in the past number of years, there has been a consistent downgrading of the ability and capacity of our emergency departments to function. Dr. Fergal Hickey outlined this quite clearly when saying that people will die. This is nothing new. I urge that we do not have a third disappointing Minister for Health in a row and that something serious and tangible is brought forward on this issue.
To turn to the broader issue of the funding of the health service, while there has been a substantial increase, there are difficulties in the context of management bringing forward plans that can be implemented and have a meaningful impact. Will the Minister insist that the bed capacity review is independently verified and assessed? More importantly, in the short and medium term, I ask that there is a revisiting of the winter initiative, which has already failed, given it is November and the burden months will be January, February, March and April. If it does not work in November, it will certainly fail in those four months.