I propose to take Questions Nos. 102 and 112 together.
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. Over the past 18 months, an additional 240 beds have been opened.
A Capacity Programme for 2019 has been agreed, which provides for the following increases to capacity, as set out in the National Service Plan 2019:
- 78 additional beds are planned for 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 Cork University Hospital and 4 HDU beds in the Mater Hospital;
- 75 acute beds and 70 community beds to come on stream in 2019, as part of the Winter Plan 2018/19, including 5 additional beds in Letterkenny University Hospital due for opening in quarter 1 2019; and
- preparation of 202 beds, of which 16 are critical care, by quarter 4 2019 with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in the first quarter of 2020, including additional beds in Letterkenny University Hospital.
In relation to the Deputy's query on the HSE's preparations ahead of the opening of the beds and the recruitment of staff, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to reply to the Deputy directly.