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Half of new hospital beds promised for Winter still not open – O’Reilly

29 January, 2019 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Speaking this morning, Sinn Féin Health spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said the government’s winter plan has been exposed as hype and spin as the facts about it become apparent.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“The more facts we find out about Minister Harris’s Winter Plan, the more it is exposed as an exercise in hype and spin.

“In the days following Christmas, you could not turn on the radio or television without seeing or hearing the Minister full of self-praise for his Winter Plan.

“As the days wore on and the trolley numbers increased, the truth about the Winter Plan became apparent.

“Many health service workers and medical professionals were in contact to inform me that the reason the numbers were down in the early days of the winter period was because the flu season hadn’t hit yet, elective surgeries had been cancelled as per Minister Harris’s plan, and that the public health system had purchased the use of additional beds from private hospitals.

“The central pillar of the Minister’s plan was to be the opening of beds.  Now, we have the revelation that only half of the new hospital beds promised for winter are still not open.

“Out of a total of 75 planned bed openings under the Winter Plan, just 40 have been opened, despite trolley numbers being well above 500 on a daily basis.

“Hospitals in Waterford, Letterkenny, Tullamore, Dublin, Cork, and Galway have yet to open any of the new beds that were promised as part of the Winter Plan.

“While additional beds are to be welcomed, 40 beds would only equate to removing around 7% of the patients which were on trolleys on Monday of this week in our hospitals.

“In the last decade, there has been a decrease of over 1,100 beds in our hospitals, mainly due to a lack of nurses and doctors to staff them. These beds need to be identified and additional staff need to be recruited in order for the beds to be re-opened.

“However, unless this government addresses the recruitment and retention crisis affecting our nurses and doctors, these beds won’t be opened.

“Fine Gael have the power to tackle these issues, however, after 8 years in charge of health, it is apparent they haven’t the appetite, the acumen, or the capabilities to do so.” ENDS

 Note: Please see the PQ to the Minister, on which this stamen is based, below

 For Written Answer on : 23/01/2019

Question Number(s): 172 Question Reference(s): 3419/19
Department: Health
Asked by: Louise O'Reilly T.D.


To ask the Minister for Health the additional beds opened under the winter plan; the hospitals in which these beds were located; the number that were open in each hospital in tabular form; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


See Winter Plan beds tableattached

As Minister for Health, I recognise that hospitals are increasingly operating at or above capacity, with year-round demand pressures that are further challenged over the winter months. It is against this background that the Health Service Capacity Review 2018 recommended an increase in acute hospitals beds of over 2,600 by 2031 to support the projected increase in demand for services in the years ahead.

Increasing capacity is therefore a priority for the Government. Over the past 12 months, an additional 240 beds have been opened.

The HSE's National Service Plan for 2019 provides for a comprehensive capacity programme for 2019.  The main elements of the programme are:

78 additional beds are scheduled to come on stream by the end of Quarter 1 and Quarter 2  of 2019, including the 40 bed modular build in South Tipperary General Hospital and the 30-bed ward in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda;

75 acute beds and 70 community beds are scheduled to come on stream in early 2019, as part of the Winter Plan 2018/19;

Preparation of 202 beds, of which 16 are critical care, during 2019, with a view to bringing this extra capacity into operation in the first quarter of 2020.

Of the 75 acute beds to be opened as part of the Winter Plan 2018/19, the HSE have confirmed that 40 beds have been opened to date and the remainder are due to come on stream in early 2019. As requested by the Deputy, a table of the hospital sites where beds are due to open under the Winter Plan is attached, and includes the number of beds opened at each hospital site to date.

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