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Varadkar doesn't want anyone to face 'indignity' caused by waiting on a trolley

The Taoiseach said he was speaking as both a doctor and a grandson whose grandmother is “regularly in and out of hospital”.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE TAOISEACH HAS 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”.

Leo Varadkar made the comments while speaking to reporters about hospital overcrowding.

There were 551 people on trolleys in emergency departments and wards this morning, down from 575 yesterday, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO).

Speaking about these figures, Varadkar said: “As a medical doctor, as somebody who worked in our health service for over seven years including in emergency departments, as a politician who represents hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of people, and as a grandson to a grandmother who’s in her 90s and is regularly in and out of hospital, I certainly don’t want to see any patients spending time on trolleys, waiting for admission, except where it’s clinically appropriate.”

The Taoiseach said the case for extra beds in our hospitals is “indisputable”, adding: “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’ve a growing population, an ageing population.”

Varadkar said the need for more beds is “not something we’ve just discovered as a government, by the way”, saying between 150 and 200 extra beds were made available in Irish hospitals in both 2016 and 2017. He added that this “will continue throughout 2018″ and “we will need to accelerate that now, in the years to come”.

Varadkar said Health Minister Simon Harris today briefed the Cabinet on the current situation in the health service, and has been asked to bring a bed capacity review to Cabinet within the next two weeks.

Best practice 

Varadkar said Harris is also looking into “mainstreaming best practice across our hospital system”, noting there is an “enormous variation from hospital to hospital and region to region”.

As an example, Varadkar said hospitals in Cavan, Beaumont and Drogheda had their lowest levels of overcrowding ever last year, while other hospitals had “the worst overcrowding they’ve ever seen, since records began”.

Varadkar said the position of the implementation officer for Sláintecare – a 10-year plan that aims to reform the health sector – will be advertised from Friday onwards, and that talks on a new GP contract are expected to be concluded this year.

HSE apology

Also speaking to today, HSE Chief Executive Tony O’Brien apologised to patients who are waiting on trolleys in hospitals.

O’Brien told RTÉ’s News At One measures are being taken to reduce the number of people on trolleys. He said more recruitment in the health sector is needed, as well as extra beds.

O’Brien noted there is political consensus that the healthcare system needs to be reshaped, stating: “What we are seeing today will look like a picnic if we don’t.”

Read: Private hospital beds to be used to ease Emergency Department overcrowding

Read: Dr Anthony O’Connor: Things we could do to get more people off trolleys

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