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Kelly says Government should have bought some private hospitals outright last year

Government are taking solace in trolley numbers being lower than 2019.

HSE boss Paul Reid has said the health service is under “inconceivable strain”.
HSE boss Paul Reid has said the health service is under “inconceivable strain”.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

LABOUR LEADER ALAN Kelly has said that the government should have bought out some of the private hospitals last year.

It comes after HSE chief executive Paul Reid said the Irish health system is under “inconceivable strain”.

He said the service is facing the “highest level of impact and risk we’ve had to manage since Covid landed here”.

The health service will treble its use of private beds in the coming weeks, increasing from 1,100 beds per week to nearly 3,000.

“When we utilize this private hospital capacity it will be to address some of the urgent care, some of our cancer care and also our cardiology as well,” Reid said today.

The HSE chief added that private hospitals are now also being utilised for elective care. “That’s the level of surge that we are at across the system at the minute,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme.

Over €20 million has been allocated to boosting private hospital capacity out of the HSE’s Winter Preparedness Plan. The plan has a budget of €77 million.

“Once again we have to rely on the private, for profit hospital sector to provide the extra bed spaces and treatments we need this winter.

“If the state had acted to buy outright some private hospitals like I called for in 2020 we would have ensured a permanent increase in capacity. It would be a better use of public money,” Kelly told The Journal. 

The Taoiseach told the Dáil this week that 1,100 to 1,200 private hospital beds are already being used continually by the HSE.

“That figure will grow. That will go up to 2,800 bed days per week. That is where we are right now. It will expand significantly,” he said. 

Kelly told the Taoiseach in the Dail that it would have been cheaper to buy the private hospitals. 

Hospitals are currently building up surge capacity in intensive care beds.

The latest statistics show that there are 611 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, including 118 in intensive care units.

The number of patients in hospital with the disease has increased by 40% in recent weeks and 18% in the last seven days, up to yesterday.

“We’re appealing again to the public not to attend emergency departments unless there is an emergency need,” Reid said at this week’s HSE operational update.

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When asked about hospital concerns, a number of Government sources said they are keenly aware of the situation in hospitals, but noted that the hospital trolley numbers are not at the same level as they were in 2019, prior to the pandemic.

The HSE confirmed that there were 203 patients on trolleys as of 8am yesterday. While this is a 71% increase on the same day last year, it is 131 patients or 39% lower than trolley numbers recorded in 2019. 

Over the past seven Days, there has been a 230 daily average number on trolleys, 81% higher than the same week in 2020, but 32% lower than the same week in 2019.

2019 saw the highest number of patients on trolleys in any year since records began according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.

In January, all 18 private hospitals signed up to a “safety net” deal that allows the HSE to use private beds while coping with capacity pressure during Covid-19 surges.

The deal between the HSE and other private hospitals will allow the health service to use, depending on the incidence of Covid-19, up to 30% of the private hospitals’ capacity.

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