By Cate McCurry, PA
The Sinn Féin leader has accused the Government of failing to invest in the healthcare service by not increasing the number of hospital inpatient beds this year.
Mary Lou McDonald said the lack of capacity in the country’s hospitals has left the healthcare service “vulnerable” to a rise in Covid-19 cases.
Ms McDonald said that despite the ongoing health crisis, the Government did not budget for a single additional inpatient bed.
“Thankfully, our population is largely vaccinated and this should allow us to proceed safely back to normal, but our healthcare capacity leaves us vulnerable,” the Sinn Féin leader said.
“The crisis that we face now is a hospital bed and capacity crisis.
“Science has done its bit, medical professionals have done more than their bit, but the Government has failed to step up.
“Hospitals across the State are seeing record levels of overcrowding. Emergency departments are overflowing.”
She said that Tuesday’s trolley count stands at 416, with almost one million people on waiting lists.
The Dáil was told that almost a quarter of a million of those are waiting for more than 18 months.
“Yet, in the face of this crisis, and increasing Covid numbers, the response of the Government in the budget was not one single additional inpatient bed,” Ms McDonald added.
“I want the Taoiseach to change direction immediately. I am calling on him to do that.
"In #Budget2022 you did not make additional provision for as much as 1 new inpatient bed, that's a fact.
"And at the heart of our dilemma now is a huge vulnerability in terms of healthcare and hospital capacity. So how are you going to address that?" – @MaryLouMcDonald #Dáil pic.twitter.com/vZsN8y0LrQ
— Sinn Féin (@sinnfeinireland) October 19, 2021
“I want him to provide the investment needed, to increase the number of beds in our hospitals, to relieve the overcrowding and to lift the intense, unbearable pressure on front-line staff, who are now beyond breaking point.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that close to 938 beds are to be “delivered” by the end of the year.
He said that over 900 beds have been budgeted for, including the staffing needed for the beds.
The Fianna Fáil leader said it is the largest ever bed increase in one year.
“Likewise, in terms of ICU [intensive care unit], again, there has been a very substantial 25 per cent increase over the last two years in ICU beds. It is close to 300 now and it will get to 321 by the end of this year, or, at the latest, very early next year,” Mr Martin added.
“These are very substantial increases in both ICU and in terms of bed capacity itself.”
He said that people in all age groups are getting infected and that the plan to reopen the rest of society is being done in a cautious way.
Ms McDonald said that while provision has been made for 19 new ICU beds, that was a “drop in the ocean”.
Mr Martin rejected the accusation, adding: “If you know anything at all about ICU beds, it is not about the beds themselves but the entire staffing team that goes behind them.”