As Minister for Health, I recognise that hospitals are increasingly operating at or above capacity, with year-round demand pressures that are further challenged over the winter months. It is against this background that the Health Service Capacity Review 2018 recommended an increase in acute hospitals beds of over 2,600 by 2031 to support the projected increase in demand for services in the years ahead.
Increasing capacity is therefore a priority for the Government.
The Capacity Programme for 2019 provides for the following increases to capacity, as set out in the National Service Plan 2019:
- 78 additional beds are planned for Quarter 1 of 2019, including the 40-bed modular build in South Tipperary General Hospital, the 30-bed ward in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, 4 HDU beds in the Mater Hospital and 4 HDU beds in Cork University Hospital;
- 75 acute beds, of which 54 have opened to date, and 70 community beds to come on stream in 2019, as part of the Winter Plan 2018/19;
- preparation of 202 beds, by quarter 4 2019 with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in the first quarter of 2020.
Funding has been provided in the National Service Plan 2019 to facilitate the opening of the modular build at South Tipperary General Hospital and the HSE advise that the project is at an advanced stage. The HSE also advised that staff recruitment has commenced.
As this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.