Wednesday 23 January 2019

Health service 'wasn't prepared' for crisis, says minister

Health Minister Simon Harris
Health Minister Simon Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris and health service task force reps are at loggerheads over whether there are enough nurses to cater for 63 beds, which are being made available to allay the hospital trolley crisis.

The minister announced that 28 additional beds had opened in Galway on Thursday and said the rest were to be rolled out over the coming weeks.

Mr Harris said that the HSE is taking a number of immediate steps to address the crisis and welcomed the fall in trolley figures to 395 yesterday, but criticised the health service for being inadequate.


Trolley figures in the capital are still high. The Mater Hospital has 25 patients on trolleys, while Beaumont Hospital has 22 and St Vincent's University Hospital has 19.

"The significant surge that has happened in recent days, it is fair to say, the health service wasn't adequately prepared for," Mr Harris said.

"That's not apportioning blame - it's stating what is now the obvious this week.

"The HSE have assured me that by putting forward this list that they believe they can open these beds," he added.

However, INMO general secretary Liam Doran said that further beds can only become available if enough staff are there to cater for it.

"Without those nurses we can't increase the beds, we can't increase the services," he said.

"We'll have to try and open the beds as quickly as we can, but that will be totally contingent upon the staff being available," he added.


Meanwhile, it is understood that nurses could go on strike as early as next month.

Mr Doran said that the INMO have a 90pc mandate for strike action, and that discussions will begin next week.

Separately, senior Fianna Fail TDs have warned they are prepared to pull their support for the Fine Gael-led minority Government if the chaos in the country's overcrowded hospitals is not addressed by next winter.

"Obviously you don't want to be in a situation where this time next year there has been no improvement in public services, which is part of our confidence and supply agreement and the minister has to mindful of that," said Fianna Fail health spokesman Billy Kelleher.

He added Fine Gael would have to make "major improvements" in the health service to ensure Fianna Fail continues to support the agreement.

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