04 January 2017

Reacting to the latest figures on hospital overcrowding, Labour spokesperson on Health, Alan Kelly TD has said it is time for Minister Harris to recognise that it is now a national emergency and that all available beds must be opened immediately, and spare capacity in private hospitals accessed.

“The figures published today by the INMO show that overcrowding in our Accident and Emergency Departments is a national emergency with patients facing serious risks.

“Minister Harris has not responded adequately to this crisis, and it is now clear the Winter Initiative has failed, before the worst of the flu season has even hit.

“It is naive of the Minister to just blame the flu for a crisis we all saw coming, with no shortage of proposals put forward to alleviate the situation.

“The Minister’s so called ‘perfect storm’ is an indictment of his failure to adequately plan, prepare, and ensure appropriate resources are in place.

“When I questioned the Minister on this in October I predicted this crisis, and called on the Minister to use spare capacity in private hospitals to avoid hell in our emergency departments.

“Minister Harris said he would examine this proposal but has so far failed to implement it.

“We have been told a bed capacity review is underway but those beds are needed now and local managers should be equipped to put those in place.

“The Minister, just like Leo Varadkar before him, has been reduced to commenting on the overcrowding crisis rather than acting to resolve it.

“Reports indicate that GPs are inundated with patients, and having to refer them to hospitals where capacity is lacking.

“The perpetual crisis has worsened, and despite talking a good game, Minister Harris has no real solutions planned or ready to roll out.

“Our health system requires more acute hospital beds, and more frontline staff, and the Minister should outline how he will deliver an increase in capacity.

“There also needs to be a rapid transfer of funding to primary care centres, community intervention teams and increased provision of home care packages.

“This is a national emergency as the latest figures show mounting pressure in hospitals across the country.

“A simple measure the Minister could take is to access immediately the spare capacity that exists in the A&E departments in private hospital facilities across the country.

“By facing up to this crisis, and acknowledging the national emergency that exists, the Minister could take extraordinary measures to open beds, and access private healthcare facilities.

“This would immediately increase capacity.

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