By Jonathan McCambridge, PA
The Government has been accused of “failing miserably” to deal with the crisis in hospitals by the leader of Sinn Féin.
Mary Lou McDonald told the Dáil that new figures showed 1,100 people aged 75 and older were on a trolley for more than 24 hours while waiting for a hospital bed in January.
Answering leaders’ questions, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said emergency departments were experiencing “record attendances” and clinicians believe it is a legacy of Covid.
Mrs McDonald said: “On your watch as Taoiseach, figures show that in January alone 1,100 patients aged 75 and over were lying on trolleys for 24 hours and more.
“Eleven hundred elderly patients left waiting on a trolley in a single month is 1,100 scandals, one after the other.
“Be sure that behind every one of those 1,100 is a person, somebody’s loved one.
“This crisis hasn’t fallen out of the sky, the INMO (Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation) has been ringing the alarm bell for weeks and weeks.
“So the big question which arises is what is the health minister doing? What is the HSE doing?
“(Health) Minister (Stephen) Donnelly is paid €225,000, Paul Reid of the HSE €412,000, Robert Watt, secretary general of the department (of health), €298,000.
“When you pay that type of money you expect big results, you expect that the job is done.
“The scandal of trolleys continues despite paying these men almost €1 million between them.
“Taoiseach, do you and the minister for health accept responsibility for this crisis in our hospitals?”
Mr Martin responded: “Without question there have record attendances in our emergency departments over the last month and the situation is very challenging.
“The clinicians on the ground are saying this is clearly a legacy arising out of the Covid period in terms of people not presenting early on during Covid.”
He said there had been record investment in health, and bed capacity had increased under the current Government.
Mrs McDonald said: “You and your Government are failing miserably in your task and I don’t accept your excuse that this is a consequence of Covid.”
She referenced an appearance by Mr Watt before the health committee, saying she was “alarmed to hear that it seems that the secretary general of the health department is not signed up for Sláintecare”.
Mr Martin said: “Did you read the secretary general’s speech to the Oireachtas committee this morning?
“You seem to simply think you can come in and say anything, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not.
“‘If I throw enough mud it will stick’ seems to be your approach to what are very serious issues.”