Thursday, 3 October 2019
Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters
Hospital Accommodation Provision
Catherine Byrne (Dublin South Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source
I thank the Senator. I apologise to him on the basis that this is probably the third time I have been here to deal with the same issue. I acknowledge that he has raised it on a few occasions. I have been reminding the Minister of the situation constantly. I am responding once more today on behalf of Deputy Harris. He acknowledges the distress that overcrowding in emergency departments causes to patients and their families and to front-line staff who work in challenging conditions in hospitals throughout the country. The number of patients attending emergency units continues to increase each year. In the first eight months of 2019, the number of patients attending increased by 2.9% and the number of admissions increased by 1.7% compared with the same period last year. During the same period, attendances at the emergency department in Letterkenny University Hospital increased by 4.5% and admissions increased by 6.1% compared with the same period in 2018. According to provisional TrolleyGAR figures, some 3,025 patients waited on trolleys in the emergency unit in Letterkenny University Hospital between January and the end of September this year. This represented a 32% increase on the same period last year. This is an average of 11 people waiting on trolleys each morning so far in 2019.
The health service capacity review, which was published last year, made it clear that a major investment in additional capacity in hospital and community settings is needed. It also spoke of the need for wide-scale reform of the manner and location of the provision of health services. An additional 267 beds have been opened since 2017. The capacity programme for 2019 provides for increases in capacity, as set out in the 2019 national service plan. Some 75 acute beds and 70 community beds were provided for under the 2018-19 winter plan, including five beds that opened in Letterkenny University Hospital in June 2019 under that plan. Some 47 additional beds, including a 40-bed modular build in South Tipperary General Hospital, three high-dependency unit beds in the Mater Hospital and four high-dependency unit beds in Cork University Hospital, were also provided for. The capacity programme also provides for the preparation of 202 beds during 2019, including 15 in Letterkenny University Hospital, with a view to bringing this additional capacity into operation in the first quarter of 2020. The programme also provides for the commencement of works on a 60-bed modular ward at University Hospital Limerick. In its most recent update to the Department, the HSE advised that ten short-stay ward beds at Letterkenny University Hospital opened in June 2019 and the opening of nine further beds at the hospital is under consideration. To date, no timeline has been provided for the opening of these beds. I will come back to some of the issues raised by the Senator in my concluding remarks.