Min­is­ters de­mand 500 more hos­pi­tal places

■ In­de­pen­dents seek beds by end of year as flu out­break adds to cri­sis

Irish Examiner - - Front Page - Daniel McCon­nell and Joyce Fe­gan

In­de­pen­dent Gov­ern­ment min­is­ters have de­manded the de­liv­ery of 500 ad­di­tional hos­pi­tal beds by the end of this year.

The de­mands are be­ing made by some In­de­pen­dent Al­liance min­is­ters in a bid to avoid a sim­i­lar trol­ley cri­sis, as wit­nessed last week, re­oc­cur­ring next year.

The bed cri­sis has been ex­ac­er­bated by the cur­rent flu out­break, with ex­perts pre­dict­ing it will last an­other six weeks.

The HSE es­ti­mates that more than 23,000 peo­ple con­tracted the virus last week alone, with as many as 1,500 suf­fer­ers ad­mit­ted to hos­pi­tals al­ready un­der pres­sure after the Christ­mas hol­i­days.

The HSE ’s as­sis­tant national director for public health, Kevin Kelle­her, said 4,700 peo­ple were treated by their GP for flu symp­toms last week, but the over­all num­bers are far higher.

“In gen­eral terms, you’d ex­pect that fig­ure to be four, five times more in terms of how many peo­ple have got the flu be­cause not ev­ery­body goes to their GP,” said Dr K el le her .“So you can have a de­gree of mul­ti­pli­ca­tion.”

In terms of the 500 hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions, for flu-re­lated ill­ness, the HSE public health ex­pert said you could mul­ti­ply this fig­ure by three.

“We have one hos­pi­tal in each of the hos­pi­tal groups around the coun­try and they give us very much more de­tailed in­for­ma­tion about res­pi­ra­tory ad­mis­sions to hos­pi­tals,” said Dr Kelle­her. “It’s only eight hos­pi­tals out of the 40-odd so you can’t say it’s com­pre­hen­sive. You can guessti­mate that it would be three or four times that num­ber.”

Dr Kelle­her said this year’s flu sea­son is worse than last year’s and is ex­pected to last an­other six weeks.

Health Min­is­ter Si­mon Har­ris, who has said an ad­di­tional 191 beds have been added in re­cent weeks, will bring his bed ca­pac­ity re­view to Cab­i­net in 10 days’ time.

Min­is­ter of state for dis­abil­i­ties Finian McGrath, who sits at Cab­i­net along with his col­league, John Hal­li­gan, have de­manded a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the bed ca­pac­ity in the coun­try’s acute hos­pi­tals this year.

It has been claimed that, dur­ing a Cab­i­net dis­cus­sion on Wed­nes­day, Mr McGrath warned that the Gov­ern­ment needs to “fo­cus on the is­sue and we need 500 beds in 2018”.

Mr Har­ris is be­lieved to feel that around 500 new beds are needed this year but fi­nan­cial ap­proval for them has yet to be se­cured.

Mr Har­ris is com­mit­ted to in­creas­ing bed ca­pac­ity, de­liv­er­ing on the GP con­tract as well as pro­gress­ing the Slain­te­care re­forms and won ap­proval for that at Cab­i­net yes­ter­day.

Last week, more than 25,000 peo­ple at­tended emer­gency de­part­ments around Ire­land. This week that num­ber is nearly 23,000.

In terms of ad­mis­sions, just over 7,000 peo­ple were ad­mit­ted last week. This week, that num­ber fell slightly to about 6,600.

These fig­ures are an in­crease on 2017.

The HSE opened all of its “surge” beds on Jan­uary 10, to deal with the de­mand, which amounts to 550 beds, but yes­ter­day the Ir­ish Nurses and Midwives Or­gan­i­sa­tion recorded 544 peo­ple on hos­pi­tal trol­leys.

Mr Har­ris yes­ter­day also an­nounced the launch of the re­cruit­ment process for the ex­ec­u­tive director for Sláin­te­care.

The ex­ec­u­tive director “will be charged with lead­ing and man­ag­ing this re­form pro­gramme, work­ing in part­ner­ship with key stake­hold­ers across the health sys­tem”, Mr Har­ris said.

Si­mon Har­ris said an ad­di­tional 191 beds were added re­cently.

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