Dáil debates

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate

Hospital Accommodation Provision

1:55 pm

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the opportunity to address the House on the issues raised by the Deputies. I speak on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris, who cannot be here and sends his apologies. He acknowledges the distress overcrowded emergency departments cause for patients, their families and front-line staff working in very challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country. The number of patients attending emergency departments continues to increase year on year. For the first eight months of 2019, the number of patients attending hospital emergency departments increased by 2.9%, while the number of emergency department admissions increased by 1.7% compared to the same period last year.

University Hospital Limerick is one of the busiest in the country. As such, the hospital and community health organisation mid-west were identified as one of the nine focus sites which required additional investment and support last winter. In University Hospital Limerick there was a 13.3% increase in trolleys in the year to date in August 2019 compared to the same period last year, while there was a 5.9% increase in August 2019 compared to the previous month. It is acknowledged that this is unacceptably high and the Health Service Executive, HSE, is working actively with the University of Limerick Hospital group to ease congestion in the hospital, with the focus on facilitating transfers to level 2 hospitals, assistance provided by rehabilitation units and community health organisation, CHO, services and the prioritisation of diagnostics to aid inpatient discharges.

The health service capacity review, published last year, highlighted the need for a major investment in additional capacity. Progress has been made in increasing capacity in University Hospital Limerick. The average number of open inpatient beds increased by 4% between 2017 and March 2019. Since 2017, an additional 25 beds have opened in University Hospital Limerick, including eight as part of last year's winter plan. A capital budget of €19.5 million has been approved for the provision of a modular 60-bed inpatient ward block at University Hospital LimerickL, with funding of €10 million allocated in 2019. The new modular block will include three wards comprising 20 single occupancy rooms with en-suite facilities, two of which will provide full isolation facilities and care and treatment for patients from admission to discharge. The HSE has advised that the enabling works are complete and that the main contractor is commencing work. In addition, the national development plan includes a 96-bed replacement ward block at University Hospital Limerick. Capital funding was provided in 2018 to progress the design phase of the project.

Planning for winter 2019-20 has commenced. The Department of Health has been engaging actively with the HSE in planning for winter 2019-20. In that respect, the HSE has been asked to consider actions and initiatives over and above non-funded actions, building capacity and the options available to it to alleviate the expected overcrowding. The Department expects to receive a draft winter plan in the coming weeks. I will bring the Deputies' other points to the Minister's attention.


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