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'People are dying': Life-saving surgeries delayed or cancelled due to intensive care bed shortage

Minister of State Jim Daly said increasing ICU capacity is a priority for the government in 2018.

Image: Shutterstock/sfam_photo

ONE OF THE Department of Health’s junior ministers has said the government acknowledges there are capacity deficits in intensive care units across the country and increasing bed numbers is a priority for this year.

Minister of State Jim Daly was speaking in the Seanad yesterday in response to strong comments from Fianna Fáil senators and GP Keith Swanick who told him “people are dying” because of this shortage.

Swanick referred to an article in the Sunday Business Post two weeks ago, which reported that life support was being “rationed” and the doctors were being forced to prioritise some critically ill patients over others.

He said the absence of post-op beds means life-saving surgeries are delayed or in some cases cancelled.

Swanick told the minister that doctors routinely have to break the news to families that their loved one’s likelihood of survival is slim.

“I never thought one of the reasons might be that an ICU bed is not available.”

The failure to provide emergency surgeries for this reason is “nothing short of a national scandal”, he said, pointing out that this issue had been highlighted for the HSE as far back as 2009.

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FullSizeR Senator Swanick said the shortage of ICU beds is a national scandal.

“It directly impacts on serious elective surgery, such as cancer, or elevating a seriously ill patient, for example with pneumonia, from a medical ward into ICU,” he explained.

Though he acknowledged it was a “very serious thing to say”, he told Daly: “People are dying as a result of the absence of ICU beds.”

Daly responded that the government “fully accepts” that there is an issue with critical care capacity in hospitals across the country.

He said the 2018 service plan identifies an increase in these beds as a priority for the year, particularly the opening of additional high dependence and critical care beds in Cork University Hospital and the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

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