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'This isn't a trolley crisis - It's a system in meltdown': Minister's commitments 'worthless' say doctors

The Taoiseach apologised for the current crisis today, while Minister Simon Harris called it “unacceptable”.

Image: Mark Stedman/RollingNews.ie

THE IRISH MEDICAL Organisation (IMO) has said that significant financial investment is needed in the health service and that Health Minister Simon Harris’ commitments are “worthless” without this support.

In a statement this evening, Harris said that he had discussed the overcrowding with the chief executives of all the hospital groups in the country, and that increased investment is being put into alleviating the current trolley crisis.

Earlier, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar apologised to patients who have experienced long delays on trolleys at a press conference.

With Ireland currently experiencing the “flu season”, many emergency departments are experiencing very high numbers of patients presenting at hospital.

The number of patients on trolleys according to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) was 592 today, however, down on the record high of 677 yesterday.

Varadkar said that the numbers should continue to stabilise in the next few days.

Minister Harris admitted that the figures are “unacceptable” and said he had told hospital group CEOs to ensure all beds that can be opened are opened, the availability of diagnostics is increased, and that work continues in reducing the number of people who are in hospital.

He said he wanted to reassure the public that increased investment from government in acute bed capacity and increased access to home care was being used to deal with the extra pressure on the health services this week.

“I would appeal to everyone to listen to the public health messages of the HSE in the coming days and help our frontline staff by staying home if you’re ill,” he said.

I am committed to breaking the cycle of overcrowding in the health service.

In Budget 2018, an extra €685 million was allocated to the health budget. At the time, however, the IMO described its characterisation as the biggest health budget in State history as “spin”.

The IMO said today that Harris’s recent commitments are “worthless without a simultaneous commitment from the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance to finding financial resources”.

Its president, Dr Ann Hogan, said: “We all agree investment should be evidence based but the evidence has long been there to clearly demonstrate that there are not enough acute or nursing home beds to cope with our demographics and in particularly deal with the complex medical problems of a growing elderly population.”

She added that investment in GP-led primary care and a consultant-delivered hospital service is key.

She added: “This is not a trolley crisis – this is a system in meltdown.

No single measure will address the problem in any significant way.  We have to tackle the three core issues at the same time to make any progress. Time for analysing the problem is over what we need is an increasing and sustained funding programme.

Read: ‘Chaos is the reality of our health services’: Doctors say a trolley crisis is only ever hours away

Read: Open letter to Simon Harris: ‘Our dad provided good service to Irish State but ended up on a trolley’

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Sean Murray

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