Thursday, 29 September 2022
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
For the seventh time in the past year and a half, I am raising the issue of the serious, chronic and worsening situation at Sligo University Hospital, SUH, regarding the numbers on trolleys and waiting for beds. There is no shortage of statistics thanks to Trolley Watch. While numbers fluctuate day on day, if we look at the trends, we will see what is happening. If we look at this year, from January to August, we see that compared with all other hospitals, SUH started off in January as the fifth worst. As the year progressed, it went from fourth to third. When we get to August, because that is the last full month, we see that it was in the fourth-worst position. The figures in September show a distinct disimprovement. The headline figures for the month of August, which show Sligo with 720 people waiting, do not tell the full story. One needs to look at the capacity of any hospital, such as the number of beds and staff, because that, to a large extent, determines how it can manage those waiting on beds. If we look at August of this year and compare bed capacity in Sligo and Limerick, for example, which is meant to be perhaps one of the worst hospitals from the perspective of those on trolleys and waiting for beds, we see that Sligo is the worst of all the hospitals in the country. That is measure of the real challenge that is facing SUH, not the headline figures that are screaming at us at this stage.
I am sure the Tánaiste is well familiar with this issue, not just from my interventions, but from his party's councillors and Government Deputies, some of whom described the situation recently as truly shocking. They are right; the situation is truly shocking and completely unacceptable. The situation, while it is worsening, has not crept up on us by stealth; rather, it has worsened year on year. If the Tánaiste looks at the figures back from 2006, he will see that those figures are getting worse year on year. All hospitals have experienced increases, but Sligo is the worst.
That is why I am asking the Tánaiste for an immediate, short-term response for the coming winter-spring period. I know there are longer-term plans for a 42-bed unit, and we are waiting on that. However, we need immediate action. The hospital is under severe pressure. Staff are under huge stress and suffering burnout. Covid tested all of us, but it tested healthcare staff more than others. As we face into uncertain winter and spring in the context of Covid and flu, what short-term messages can the Government put in place?