Wednesday, 13 June 2018
Topical Issue Debate (Resumed)
Hospital Accommodation Provision
On behalf of the Minister, Deputy Harris, I thank the Deputies for raising this very important matter. Let me start by recognising that this Government has approved a record level of capital investment in health at €10.9 billion over the next ten years, which will provide for a major enhancement of the capacity of our health services to meet demand in the coming years. Within this context in February of this year the Department of Health published the health service capacity review, the findings of which now provide the evidence base for capacity decisions. This report concludes that if the required reforms are implemented, nearly 2,600 additional acute hospital beds will be required by 2031.
As a first step towards implementing this recommendation, the Minister has asked the Department to work with the Health Service Executive, HSE, to identify the location and mix of beds across the hospital system that can be opened and staffed this year and in 2019. The HSE is continuing to work on a submission in this regard, with the aim of formulating an evidence-based plan for increasing bed capacity nationally that will form the basis of discussions with colleagues in government on the financing of this important programme of work.
Deputies Jan O'Sullivan, Harty and Neville have specifically raised concerns about the plans as they relate to University Hospital Limerick.
The need to address bed capacity at University Hospital Limerick, UHL, is recognised by all stakeholders. As the Deputies will be aware, a new emergency department was opened at University Hospital Limerick on 29 May 2017. The €24 million development aimed to provide University Hospital Limerick with increased capacity for emergency medicine to meet the demands of population growth and changing service models and to improve efficiency targets. In addition, 17 new short-stay beds were opened in December 2017 as part of winter measures aimed at alleviating pressure on the emergency department and meeting the growing demand for services in this period. Looking forward, the national development plan includes provision for a 96-bed replacement ward block at University Hospital Limerick. The Minister, Deputy Harris, can confirm that the HSE capital plan for 2018 includes funding to progress the design phase of this project. In the meantime, the HSE is also considering a submission by University of Limerick hospital group to develop a modular inpatient facility at University Hospital Limerick which will have capacity for up to a further 60 beds. A decision on this, as part of the broader work being brought forward by the Department of Health and the HSE to increase bed capacity in advance of this winter and throughout 2019 will be made as soon as possible.
We all acknowledge that the challenges we face are significant. Therefore, importantly, this focus on increasing capacity will be matched by forthcoming reforms as set out in the all-party Sláintecare report. This work will be overseen through the establishment in the Department of a Sláintecare programme office, the publication of a detailed Sláintecare implementation plan and the appointment shortly of an executive director for the Sláintecare programme office. I know we have a long road ahead of us, but this is a journey of reform and strengthening of our health services. I will come back in on some of the issues the Deputies raised.