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Minister purchased more beds in private hospitals than he opened in public hospitals under ‘winter plan’ – O’Reilly

26 March, 2019 - by Louise O'Reilly TD

Speaking this morning as the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reported there were 617 patients on trolleys in hospitals across the State, Sinn Fein Health Spokesperson Louise O’Reilly TD has said the lack of public beds re-opened by the Minister is significantly contributing to such increases.

Teachta O’Reilly said:

“Today, we had the reports from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) that there were 617 patients on trolleys in hospitals throughout the State.

“Over the past number of weeks, the volume of patients on trolleys has been steadily increasing and today marks the highest point of that escalation.

“Earlier this year, I pointed out that under the winter plan the Minister for Health was using a significant amount of private capacity to reduce the number of patients on trolleys, it was put on the record that this was not sustainable and that the numbers would increase once those beds were returned to private use.

“What has happened over the past number of weeks has been the realisation of that fact.

“Indeed, it can be seen from Parliamentary Questions replies received by me that, by the start of February, the Minister had only opened 40 out of a total of 75 planned bed openings under the winter plan.

“Furthermore, it was also revealed to me that the Minister actually spent public money purchasing more temporary private hospital beds than the number of public beds he opened.

“In my mind, this is a gross misuse of public monies, that money should have been used to open public beds which are more cost effective for the State and which could be opened for the long term.

“Around the turn of the new year, you could not turn on the radio or television without seeing or hearing the Minister for Health full of self-praise for his winter plan.

“Where is the Minister now that at the end of March there are 617 patients on trolleys?

“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.” 

Note: Please see below and attached for PQs to the Minister, on which this statement 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 table attached

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.

For Written Answer on : 05/02/2019

 Question Number(s): 334 Question Reference(s): 5051/19

Department: Health

Asked by: Louise O'Reilly T.D.



 To ask the Minister for Health the amount spent under the winter plan purchasing additional capacity in private hospitals; the number of and the length of time beds were purchased for use; and if he will make a statement on the matter.


In relation to the particular query raised, as this is a service matter, I have asked the HSE to respond to the Deputy directly.

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