It is too long and completely unacceptable. I have personally, as no doubt the Deputy has, seen the distress in overcrowded emergency departments - distress to patients, their families and our healthcare professionals across the country. I have visited some of the busiest sites including Limerick and Galway. Later today I will be in the Mercy Hospital in Cork and tomorrow I will be in Cork University Hospital, CUH. I will talk to senior management and clinicians about what is going on and what needs to change.
We invested an additional €1.1 billion in the budget for last year to expand capacity, increase services and support reform. We maintained this level of investment this year with an additional €77 million in the winter plan for the winter that has just gone by. The plan sought to address the causes of long waits in the emergency departments. It targeted attendances, patient flow and better egress or discharge.
The approach is to allow emergency department staff to focus on those most urgently in need of care or most in need of urgent care. We have provided 850 additional non-ICU hospitals beds since January 2020.
Despite this unprecedented investment and increase in capacity, patients still face unacceptably long waits. What patients face in some, not all, of our hospital emergency departments is simply not acceptable. It is mainly due to increased attendances and admittances especially of those aged over 75, as outlined in the response to the parliamentary question the Deputy received. Many are sicker than before, have comorbidities and stay longer. As the Deputy will be aware, Covid impacted bed availability and facilities in hospitals. It has also significantly affected discharge options, including taking out about two thirds of nursing homes in terms of being able to discharge patients to them.