I wish to acknowledge the distress overcrowded Emergency Departments cause to patients, their families, and front-line staff working in very challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country. My Department is engaging extensively with the HSE this year to identify mitigating actions to bring down trolley numbers and waiting times in the ED in the face of growing demand.
The Health Service Capacity Review, published last year, was clear on the need for a major investment in additional capacity in both hospital and community – combined with a wide scale reform of the manner and the location of where health services are provided.
Since 2017, an additional 267 beds have been opened. The Capacity Programme for 2019 provides for the following increases in capacity, as set out in the National Service Plan 2019:
- The provision of 75 acute beds and 70 community beds under the Winter Plan 2018/19 – the HSE has confirmed that all the acute beds and 59 community beds have opened to date. This includes 5 acute beds that opened in Letterkenny University Hospital in June 2019.
- 47 additional beds, including the 40-bed modular build in South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH), 3 HDU beds in the Mater Hospital and 4 HDU beds in Cork University Hospital.
- preparation of 202 beds, of which 16 are critical care, during 2019, with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in the first quarter of 2020.
- Commencement of works on a 60-bed modular ward in University Hospital Limerick
With regard to the specific questions the Deputy has asked, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond directly.