Fianna Fáil’s Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher has said that complacency has set in across Government, and in particular in the Department of Health, about the level of overcrowding in our public hospital system.

“I find it startling that Minister Harris has been more or less absent for the past week when Emergency Department overcrowding levels have hovered consistently about 400. Today, the figure hit 601.

“Why is it that our national health providers are no longer shocked at these figures? Something has clearly gone wrong, and a focus on patient care has been lost when the Minister and the Government discuss overcrowding.

“The simple fact is that there is not enough capacity in the acute hospital network to deal with the volume of cases coming via Emergency Departments.

“What is also evident is that there are those in our acute hospitals who could be better cared for in step-down community facilities, or in nursing homes.

“However, where are the facilities to let them leave the acute hospital network? There are major issues in both the public and private sectors.

“Nursing Homes Ireland believe that at the start of 2016, there were 742 beds available in 172 nursing homes around the country.

“In addition, the HSE has confirmed to me that there has been an 18% drop in the number of state-owned nursing home bases between 2010 and 2016.

“To me this is where the back log is coming from in many cases. Not enough patients are being discharged into the right community or nursing home setting to relieve the chronic pressure facing our emergency departments.

“Until this is realised, and additional capacity is brought on stream, we will continue to see overcrowding in our EDs.

“The Government has an opportunity as part of the midterm review of the Capital Plan Capital Review to commit to investing in our health system.

“Minister Harris must lobby his colleague, the Minister for Public Expenditure, Paschal Donoghue, to release funding, otherwise this merry-go-round of continual failure in our health system will continue for years to come,” concluded Kelleher.