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Hospital beds must be provided to address A&E crisis - Ó Caoláin

9 March, 2006

Responding to the record numbers of patients on trolleys in Accident and Emergency units, Sinn Féin Dáil leader and Health and Children spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said the Tánaiste was "presiding over an escalating crisis in our hospitals" and had failed to provide the additional acute hospital beds required.

Deputy Ó Caoláin stated: "With nearly 500 people on trolleys in A&E yesterday the Tánaiste is presiding over an escalating crisis in our hospital services. There is no mystery about why this is happening. It is because there are not enough acute hospital beds in the system. The Tánaiste has known this, not just since her appointment as Health Minister in 2004, but since the government's own Health Strategy identified that need in 2001.

"When the Tánaiste launched her so-called ten-point plan on A&E in November 2004 she said: 'Our ten Accident and Emergency actions will help patients and their families well beyond the Accident and Emergency departments.' That is now a sick joke. She has not provided the most essential thing to address this crisis - at least 3000 extra beds needed in our acute hospitals.

"The situation in A&E units across the state is the front line of an overall system in crisis. A&E units have hundreds of people languishing on trolleys and chairs every day because:

· There are not enough hospital beds in the system, so that patients requiring such beds must wait in A&E.

· Many people either cannot afford to visit a family doctor or cannot find one available when needed, leading people to attend A&E for care that should be provided in primary care centres.

· Community care for the elderly is insufficient, leading many older people to reach an acute stage of illness that requires admission to hospital.

There are not enough public 'step-down' and long-term facilities to take patients currently occupying hospital beds." ENDS

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