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Dublin: 5 °C Monday 24 February, 2020
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There's a 'significant' 11.8% increase in the number of people on trolleys this winter

“200 more people a day tend an Emergency Department now than when I became Minister for Health,” Harris claimed today.

Image: Shutterstock/Tony Stock

THE NUMBER OF people on trolleys in Irish hospitals “is up quite significantly” compared to this time last year, according to the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor.

There’s over 10,000 more people on hospital trolleys this winter season when compared to the same period last year, representing an increase of 11.8%.

There’s also an increase in the daily average number of people on trolleys. This winter, there are an average of 385 people on trolleys in Irish hospitals, which is 96 more people than last year, representing an increase of 33.4%.

When Minister for Health Simon Harris was asked about those waiting on hospital trolleys, which happens each year, he said that other metrics on the healthcare system needed to be taken into account, such as the length of time people spend in hospital.

He also said that “it takes time” to build hospital extensions, and so Harris says interim measures have been taken.

“We’ve been working with our hospitals right across the country over the last few weeks asking them ‘Are there any more beds you could open?’”

He said that some hospitals came back and found an extra 199 beds, which will be opened between now and the end of January.

“There’s no doubt there remains significant access challenges,” he added. “We had the bizarre situation during the Celtic Tiger where the number of hospital beds actually reduced in our country.

“Since I’ve been Minister of Health and indeed [since] my predecessor the Taoiseach, the number of beds in the Irish health service every year is increasing, the number of nurses is increasing, the number of doctors is increasing – but so too are the number of patients turning up at our Emergency Departments.

On average, 200 more people a day attend an Emergency Department now than when I became Minister for Health. So our country is getting bigger, our population is getting older and our hospitals are very very busy as well.

When Harris was asked whether long Emergency Department waiting times, waiting lists to see consultants, and other access to healthcare issues would mean he would be a target for criticism in the next general election, Harris said: “those are the big issues that I’m going to solve.”

“People talk about standing over your record – I’m really looking forward to actually doing this because other people have records too, and other people have occupied this office too, and they’ll have to stand on their record as well.”

“During my time as Minister for Health, there be more beds in the health service, more nurses in the health service, and more doctors in the health service, as well as fewer people waiting for hospital operations than when I became minister.

“For the first time ever in the history of our State, an all-party agreed plan to reform the health service called Sláintecare, a decision to radically overhaul the HSE and to devolve more powers to the regions to give people a greater say in terms of how their health service runs.”

Harris claimed that under his party’s government, they’ve taken on “thorny issues that others have chosen to ignore over many years”, which includes paying hospital consultants “an awful lot more money”:

“…Because they deserve it, they require it, but also asking them to commit in the public health service to only public medicine, to free up the beds that are currently used for the benefit of the profits private health insurance companies.”

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