The Government is re-announcing funding for a winter package in the Department of Health today and across the health service. The reality is that this appointment will make very little difference against a background of chaos in our emergency departments, and hospitals and of a lack of GPs being available. Right across the health system, there is a sense of absolute chaos. Crisis management is the core to the Government's health strategy, not resolving the difficulties or understanding where patients are at, or the experiences of staff across the health service. Some 100,000 patients have been treated already this year in our emergency departments ahead of the really cold part of this winter. Together with the announcement of the spin-fest that will be the winter plan today, one should look at this morning's edition of The Irish Times, in which Professor Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda Hospital, who is not a political figure, wrote of lives of newborns being at risk because of overcrowding in the hospital. He wrote of a critically ill newborn child who was choppered into the Rotunda a number weeks ago from a regional hospital and who then had to wait four hours - in the life of a newborn child - because no critical care bed was available. The condition was serious enough to merit a chopper being used but when the child reached the Rotunda, there was no bed and treatment was delayed for four hours.
We also read in this morning's edition of The Irish Times of an increased number of patients dying from sepsis, an infectious disease the incidence of which had been improving in this country but in 2018, the number of cases rose by 10% in hospitals nationwide.
There also was the incident in University Hospital Galway some weeks ago when an elderly 74 year old lady on a trolley was assaulted by an aggressive patient in the emergency room. She fell off it, broke her hip and unfortunately, following treatment, has passed away. Her family is absolutely devastated and the devastation of their loss is compounded enormously by the circumstances in which that happened. They are looking for answers as to why this sort of thing is happening in emergency rooms across the country. This announcement is not going to change anything.
The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, and I this morning have already discussed and differed on whether there is a moratorium on staff recruitment. One has only to read any of today's reports or submissions from Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, as to how that is impacting. There are 350 consultant vacancies and 350 consultant posts that currently being are held by non-consultants.
I ask the Tánaiste what today is about. Is this another spin-fest and attempt by the Government to pretend that everything is normal and we then have this carry-on - which I passionately believe it is - or is this something of substance? Will this make a difference in hospitals and GP surgeries across the country this winter?