Minister must take ownership of overcrowding crisis – Kelleher

Published on: 07 January 2015

Fianna Fáil Health spokesperson Billy Kelleher is calling on the Health Minister to explain what action he has taken to address the overcrowding crisis in hospitals.  The party has been flagging the crisis as far back as October last year, when it highlighted major backlog issues in the Fair Deal scheme. 

Deputy Kelleher commented, “The Minister’s silence on the crisis over the past week is disgraceful.  We are in the midst of a national emergency and Leo Varadkar is nowhere to be seen.  This is simply not good enough.  Not only has he been absent while the appalling situation in our country’s A&Es escalates out of control, he has done little to address the situation after it was brought to his attention more than three months ago.

“Both my party and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation have been warning about the impending crisis for months.  The signs were there when waiting lists for the Fair Deal scheme exceeded 2,000 in October, when people were waiting in excess of four months for a place in a nursing home.  Despite the extraordinary delays, the HSE Service Plan for 2015 will see 400 fewer places on the scheme compared to 2013 figures.  The inadequate funding and logjams in the Fair Deal programme are exacerbating the situation in our Emergency Departments, with delayed discharges a major contributory factor to the current crisis.

“The Government’s refusal to allocate the necessary €100m in funding to free up beds and reduce overcrowding is proof that it is not serious about keeping its promises.  Enda Kenny vowed to “end the scandal of patients on trolleys”, and his former Health Minister James Reilly stated in 2013 “we will never again see 569 people on trolleys on a single day while this Government is in office”.  Unfortunately these promises ring hollow today as 584 people wait on trolleys in our Emergency Departments.

“The establishment of the Emergency Department Taskforce is a welcome development, but it will not be able to adequately address the current crisis if it only meets once a month.  It should reconvene immediately to discuss a tangible plan to address the situation.  Minister Varadkar’s disappearance has led to a vacuum in leadership at a critical time and it is essential that he takes charge of the situation and outlines how he intends to deal with the crisis”.

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