Fianna Fáil’s Health Spokesperson, Stephen Donnelly has said that yesterday’s news that a 92 year old women was left on a chair in an Emergency Department for over 24 hours in early September is a warning to the Health Minister and the HSE that their efforts in ending the trolley crisis have failed.

“We are facing into a winter the likes of which we have never experienced before. Long gone are the days of Health Ministers saying overcrowding is a winter phenomenon due to seasonal flu.

“The past summer has seen all records in terms of sick people on trolleys being broken. The winter trolley crisis is no more; it’s now a year-round crisis and I have yet to see anything from Minister Harris that leads me to believe he or the HSE have a plan to fix it.

“Minister Harris is now well over two years into the job; he has presided over two full winters, and is now entering into his third.

“No progress was made last year, and I am deeply worried about what lies in store for sick people, and in particular older sick people, if they need to attend our Emergency Departments.

“While more ED nurses are being employed, this will not deal with the actual problem in our hospital system, a lack of bed capacity. There are countless wards across Irish hospitals that are not currently open. This needs to be fixed. There are excellent step down facilities that could and should be used to look after non-acute patients, but aren’t. Every opportunity to increase acute hospital capacity must be explored.

“We have heard of positions not being filled in parts of the country designed to speed up the process of discharging patients who are well enough to go home or to a step-down facility. For people to be admitted to hospitals, others need to be discharged. It’s obvious but senior management in the HSE don’t seem to understand its importance.

“Minister Harris needs to come before the Dáil or an Oireachtas Health Committee and outline his and the HSE’s plans for the forthcoming winter. We need an opportunity to interrogate his strategies before it gets too late,” concluded Donnelly.