I have just become aware of this case in recent days in Letterkenny University Hospital. I could give so many more but this example particularly captures the crisis we have at the hospital in so many respects. A 92-year-old man with pneumonia and an underlying heart condition is gravely ill but for 22 hours he did not have a hospital bed. There are so many examples and not a day goes by that in Donegal we do not speak with families and loved ones about usually elderly parents, aunts or uncles being stuck in this position. It is an absolute scandal and the Government is well aware of this.
Last year there were almost 5,000 people on trolleys at Letterkenny University Hospital, which means almost 5,000 human beings were denied dignity and the service to which they are entitled. That is twice the number from 2016, so the crisis doubled in scale. These are the highest numbers since the records of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, began. There was an appeal from the Letterkenny hospital management to reopen the 19-bed short stay ward and approximately €1.8 million was applied for. The Department was told about the crisis we are facing and why these beds needed to be reopened but there has been absolute silence from the Government.
The issues at the Letterkenny hospital are much bigger. Deputy Pearse Doherty and I submitted a report last year on the need to invest in Letterkenny hospital, documenting years of historic funding discrimination.
Letterkenny University Hospital is the sixth largest hospital in the State. The way it has been treated is wrong. The same applies to the treatment meted out to doctors and nurses who are always praised by the public, and I mean the people who managed to get into the hospital. The difficulty is that everyone concerned is being failed and has been let down by the Government. I hope to hear today from the Minister of State that he will sanction funding amounting to €1.8 million so that the 19 beds can reopen thus ending the trolley crisis at the hospital.
The problem in Donegal at Letterkenny University Hospital has been made worse by the fact that one in four beds in the community hospitals located across the county were closed during the period when the Minister of State's party was in government. As many as one in four beds in community hospitals has been closed and one in three nurses let go. Therefore, we have a community hospital primary care infrastructure that has been starved of resources. That situation has a knock-on effect on the hospital, which is also starved of resources. The very least the Minister of State can do, as a gesture of goodwill, is give them the resources they need to reopen the short-stay ward that has 19 beds. I urge him to deal with the current crisis and then he can address the wider issue of funding neglect.