By the end of this year, we could witness over 100,000 people having been on trolleys during 2018. So far this year, more than 10,000 people aged over 75 have been waiting for more than 24 hours in our accident and emergency departments and we have lost approximately 136,000 bed days through delayed discharges. That is only in the first ten months of the year. We know the extraordinary impact this has on patients and people, as well as on mortality rates in our hospitals and the worsening of illnesses that people have as they present to accident and emergency departments. This is not to mention the major problem of people waiting for more than 500,000 outpatient department appointments, with 16,000 children waiting for more than a year for an appointment in the three Dublin hospitals alone. Yesterday, there were 449 patients on trolleys and there are 508 patients on trolleys today. This places enormous pressure on the staff of our accident and emergency departments and hospitals.
A document leaked to The Irish Times this morning examined lessons to be learned from the winter crisis of 2017 and early 2018. One of its most basic observations is the need to plan in advance and have all winter plans completed by the end of July 2018. We are now in November and we still do not have a winter plan announced.
We have also learned through a leaked report via Martin Wall, who makes up for the absence of transparency within the Government and the Department of Health on health issues by revealing confidential letters on a regular basis, in a confidential letter from the Department to the HSE, that €50 million that was to be spent on additional beds last year was not spent but was instead used to deal with the excessive spending of 2017. That is incredible and it strains Government credibility on the health issue, particularly in terms of emergency departments, to the very limit when it now emerges that despite all of the announcements from the Minister, Deputy Harris, throughout the year that money would be made available for extra beds and capacity, we learn that this money was never spent on extra capacity or beds. We know from many sources, the most recent being the former HSE director, Tony O'Brien, that the inability to recruit quality consultants and the paucity of applicants for consultant posts is adding to the consultant crisis.
The need for a winter plan is basic. It is to enable people to have time to build up physical capacity in terms of beds and recruitment of staff in terms of the hospitals. That did not happen last year. It came too late and the money was not spent optimally and, as a result, we had a crisis reaction which was very poor and ultimately disgraceful. There is the potential for the same issue to arise this year due to a lack of planning.
Will the Taoiseach explain to me why that extra €50 million allocated last year was not spent on additional beds and capacity? Will he indicate to me when the plan for the forthcoming winter period is to be announced by the Government?