THE Taoiseach has defended the HSE’s Winter Plan following a number of weeks where Cork University Hospital (CUH) has seen chronic levels of overcrowding.
Leo Varadkar also took the opportunity to take a swipe at Fianna Fáil and the Green Party for their handling of the health service while they were in Government.
He was speaking in Cork yesterday at the launch of a new affordable housing scheme.
“It’s important to acknowledge that unfortunately, overcrowding is a year-round problem, not just a winter problem and the winter plan is designed to ease the pressure on hospitals over the winter period,” Mr Varadkar said.
“In terms of resources it’s between twice and three times what we put in last year, and if you look to last years’ Winter period - the first few months of the year overcrowding was at its lowest for five years. I’m not sure we can repeat that again this year but those resources will go into making sure that people can get out of hospital quicker,” he added.
The measures announced in the Winter plan will not see more acute beds opened, however, the Taoiseach told reporters: “Around the country there are new beds being opened. We look like we’ll be over 11,000 beds in the acute hospital system for the first time in 10 years soon, and we shouldn’t forget where we’ve come from.
“A decision was made by Fianna Fáil and the Greens, during the boom for ideological reasons, not because they were short of money, to take thousands of beds out of our hospital system. As soon as we had a bit of money back in 2015 we reversed that decision, and we’ve been adding hospital beds ever since - but we do that against a backdrop of increasing demand,” he said.
Earlier this month, The Echo spoke to patients at Cork University Hospital's emergency department, who described the chaotic scenes inside.
One man had been waiting for 18 hours to be seen while another woman said she could not even find a seat to sit on in the waiting room.
Dr Conor Deasy, a consultant in Emergency Medicine at CUH, told The Echo that staff at the hospital were “deeply concerned”.
“The staff abhor the inhumanity, indignity and patient safety risk associated with treating patients, who require an inpatient hospital bed, on the corridor of the emergency department. Immediate steps are vital," he said.