Fianna Fáil TD for Cavan-Monaghan Niamh Smyth says the Government must begin looking at a whole of sector approach to tackling the overcrowding crisis in our hospital system.  As trolley numbers remain in the hundreds across the country, it’s emerged that the number of public residential beds has been slashed in recent years.

Deputy Smyth commented, “These figures are extremely worrying and there is no doubt that the reduction in residential beds is having a knock-on impact on our worsening trolley crisis.  Over the past six years, there has been a 39% reduction in the number of long and short stay residential beds – a loss of 119 places.  This makes absolutely no sense when there are serious issues with hospital bed capacity.

“There is no sense of joined up thinking in this Government; no acceptance that primary and community care services could ease the pressure on acute hospitals.  Right across this country, there hundreds of older people in hospital beds, who would be better served in a step down facility.  Many of them would prefer to be in a residential setting, but the beds are not available.

“We need to use all of the available options open to us – and that includes private nursing homes.  Nursing Homes Ireland claims there were 742 beds available in 172 nursing homes at the beginning of January.  If these were utilised it would make a significant impact in freeing up hospital beds.

“Successive Fine Gael Health Ministers have allowed this situation to deteriorate over the past 6 years and now we are at crisis point.  Action is badly needed.  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.  The bogus budgets of the past 6 years have failed the health service and Minister Harris must insist on a workable funding model.  Anything less and this creaking health system will buckle”.