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Dublin: 19 °C Tuesday 11 August, 2020

Varadkar defends comments about extra resources making hospitals slow down

The minister said he accepted that overcrowding can also delay patient treatment.

Image: Sasko Lazarov

HEALTH MINISTER LEO Vardkar has defended comments he made about extra resources in hospitals slowing down the process.

In an interview in the Sunday Independent, Varadkar said: “What can happen in some hospitals is sometimes, when they have more beds and more resources, that’s what kind of slows it down.”

He added that when a hospital is crowded there will be a push to make sure people get tests done and are discharged in a timely manner.

The minister came up against criticism for this remarks, with Fianna Fáil’s Billy Kelleher branding them “as astonishing as they are offensive”.

“It is clear that the Minister thinks that overcrowding provides the optimum working environment for a hospital,” he said.

The fact that it has been estimated that some 350 people a year may die from ED overcrowding clearly has not featured in the Minister’s thoughts.
Furthermore, what sort of impact will this have on staff morale if the Minister for Health thinks they are a shower of shirkers who will only get the finger out if they are working in a pressure cooker environment?

Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today, Varadkar stressed that he had said this was the case “in some hospitals, sometimes” and clarified that he had never said it was staff who slow down in this situation.

“I never, in 18 months as health minister, sought to blame staff,” he said this morning.

He explained it can be the case that a hospital hires extra staff to get through a busy period and when that dies down, things go back to the way they were before.

He said his comments were only intended to demonstrate that “it is not just as simple as more staff, more resources, more beds”.

However, he accepted that overcrowding can also lead to delays in care for patients.

Responding to his comments, Tánaiste Joan Burton said she did not “fully understand” his point.  She believed the best thing for patients is to have the shortest possible stay and that additional staff may result in more time spent in hospital.

Read: ‘Even if I got a cheque for €100 million – I couldn’t fix this overnight’>

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