06 January 2017

Labour spokesperson on Health, Alan Kelly TD, has welcomed the move to identify several private hospitals that can support public hospitals and GPs in certain areas, but says questions need to be answered about a clear lack of proper planning for the current crisis.

This recommendation was one of six proposals put forward by Deputy Kelly yesterday, who also called for step down facilities to be opened across the country.

Deputy Kelly said:

“I first called on the Minister to tap into private hospital facilities to alleviate pressure on public hospitals in the likely event of a flu epidemic this winter as far back as October, and I was encouraged at the time by his acknowledgement that this proposal should be considered.

“My argument then is the same as it is now: it is immoral to have private hospitals advertising for emergency department patients, almost rolling out the red carpet, while neighbouring public hospitals are overcrowded with patients lying on trolleys in some cases for days.

“But fast forward just a couple of months and we are now seeing this crisis playing out in front of our eyes.

“Emergency use of private hospital facilities is not a substitute for the long term planning and provision of desperately needed increased bed spaces in public hospitals across Ireland.

“While I welcome last night’s announcement that a number of private hospitals will be used to temporarily cater for public patients, questions remain about the clear lack of planning for this inevitable eventuality.

“Why were the necessary steps not taken in the lead up to winter to deal with a flu outbreak?

“Why were the measures not put in place months ago to ensure public patients were not left lying on trolleys while spare capacity in private facilities goes underutilised?

“The whole point of the €40 million Winter Initiative was to manage the expected increase in demand during winter and improve patient experience.

“Yet every morning on the airwaves we are hearing horror stories about elderly people being forced to wait on trolleys for hours on end, at risk of catching a bug or virus, while already overworked hospital staff scramble to carry out the basic duties such as measuring their blood pressure or taking their bloods.

“Every possible resource needs to be examined. Nursing Homes Ireland for example says over 700 beds are available in nursing homes across the country.

“The next crisis for the Health Service is lurking around the corner with a possible strike by nurses and midwives being mooted for next month. It is not enough for the Minister to simply apologise for the unacceptable situation in our hospitals, real action needs to be taken.”

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