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'It would not feel right': Simon Harris cancels St Patrick's Day trip away

Yesterday, the INMO said that there were 714 people on trolleys in hospitals across the country.

Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 11.30pm

HEALTH MINISTER SIMON Harris will not travel abroad for St Patrick’s Day due to difficulties facing the health service this week.

Harris tweeted that it “would not feel right” to travel considering the difficulties being dealt with by staff.

“People across the health service are working extraordinarily hard to make progress in what is a difficult week,” Harris said.

“I am in regular contact with HSE.

It would not feel right to me as Minister to travel for St Patrick’s Day so I have made decision not to do so.

Yesterday, the INMO said that there were 714 people on trolleys in hospitals across the country - the highest number ever recorded in a single day.

It dropped slightly today – with 649 people waiting for a bed – but remains at a critically high level.

Harris had come under the pressure over the planned trip away, with opposition figures highly critical of the government’s response to the crisis.

Harris was due to travel to Belgium and the Netherlands for St Patrick’s Day.

When asked about the trolley crisis today in Washington DC, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said:

I am in touch with Simon Harris on a daily basis, he contacted me this morning to say that given that the scale of overcrowding in our emergency departments and hospitals at the moment that he was cutting short his trip.

Varadkar said Harris did have some important meetings planned in Belgium and the Netherlands around drug pricing and getting better value for the cost of medicines for Irish patients but Varadkar said it could be done at another time.

The Taoiseach said he would be continuing with his trip in the US.

“So I think he has made the right decision in terms of staying at home, I will be continuing with my work here which has been scheduled for quite some time,” he said.

“Looking at numbers it does tell a story you see enormous variation, part of the reason why we have such high levels of overcrowding at the moment is a prolonged flu-season, the fact that we lost a few days because of the snow.

“That’s a reason, it’s not an excuse, and I do see in hospitals like Cavan, like Beaumont, like Drogheda who were just as affected by the snow and by the flu the numbers on trolleys are in single digits,” he added

He said a “major improvement” in the quality of management is needed in some hospitals. Varadkar also ruled out a reshuffle of his Cabinet.

Speaking in January, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he doesn’t want any patient in Ireland to “face the indignity and the risk to their health that comes with prolonged trolley waits”.

The Taoiseach said the case for extra beds in our hospitals is “indisputable”.

“Even if there was no overcrowding in our hospitals we would say we still need more bed capacity and that’s down to the fact that we have a growing population, an ageing population.”

With Christina Finn reporting from Washington DC

Read: ‘It’s absolutely deplorable’: Record-breaking 714 people on trolleys in Irish hospitals this morning

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Cormac Fitzgerald

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