Dáil debates

Thursday, 21 May 2020

Covid-19 (Health): Statements


3:50 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)

The short answer is that, yes, it is something I consider doing as a matter of urgency but there is work under way in respect of it. The Deputy is entirely correct. Our clinical experts believe we are going to need to keep bed occupancy in our public health service at approximately 80% to 85%. That is what it should normally be but we know that this has not been the norm in Ireland. We need to keep it at approximately 80% to 85% as long as we are living alongside Covid. Let us be honest, we would all like to keep it there going forward. The Secretary General said here in the Chamber at the Special Committee on Covid-19 Response the other day that we cannot go back to the situation with people being left on trolleys. This is not because the trolleys are undesirable, although they are, but because of the infection control issues that arise. There are real challenges.

One of the discussion points we are going to have to have is about how we look at the extra capacity we have put into the public health service and how we look at partnering and utilising private bed occupancy. By the way, even if we park ideology there are different ways in which we can we can arrive at that. There is a review built into the private hospital agreement at the end of May to run for 30 days and there will be a discussion for the current or new Government in this regard.

With regard to outpatients, I genuinely think there is a huge opportunity for reform in the context of measures such as virtual clinics. We know that in Ireland many people go to outpatient clinics who would, if they were in other countries, see allied healthcare professionals in primary care centres. Much of what the Sláintecare report includes that we have temporarily set up for Covid needs to become the new norm. The short answer is the executive director of the Sláintecare office in the Department of Health is analysing where we are at with regard to the delivery of Sláintecare, what good has happened in Covid-19 that we want to bank and keep and what other things perhaps have fallen behind or are new challenges. The board of the HSE is also considering these issues from a strategic point of view and I expect both pieces of work to be completed over the summer months.


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