Harris: More beds needed to deal with overcrowding

More hospital beds will continue to be needed to deal with hospital hospital overcrowding, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.

Harris: More beds needed to deal with overcrowding

More hospital beds will continue to be needed to deal with hospital hospital overcrowding, according to Health Minister Simon Harris.

“We know what we need to do in terms of capacity, not what people did during the Celtic Tiger years when they reduced the number of hospital beds,” he said.

An additional 199 hospital beds are to be opened before the end of the month and 51 are due to open on Monday, the minister pointed out at the HSE’s winter briefing.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said the HSE needs to lift its moratorium on the recruitment in staff nurses to ease the situation.

Its general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, told RTÉ radio they had been chasing posts that had been vacant in Cork University Hospital.

They looked to have 50 posts approved in October but they were not sanctioned until December 20.

“So it is a delay tactic; it’s spin,” said Ms Ní Sheaghdha. “It’s completely disrespectful to people who are working very hard to provide a public health service on the frontline.

The minister said there were more than 2,100 additional people working in the Irish health service at the end of last month and more than 500 were nurses.

“The number of nurses, doctors, healthcare assistants, and allied healthcare professionals is continuing to grow,” he said.

HSE chief operations officer Anne O’Connor said there had been an increase in all grades of nursing staff last year.

HSE national clinical advisor and acute hospitals group lead, Vida Hamilton, said there is a capacity issue but it is being addressed.

“The reality is that we do have a capacity shortage both in terms of beds, doctors, nurses, and other clinicians and access to diagnostics,” said Dr Hamilton.

“There are plans in place to address those shortages over a period of time but it is not a short-term solution.” she said.

Ms O’Connor said they had been working very hard to discharge people from hospital who had completed their acute care. She said the number of bed days lost has been reduced from 55,000 in October to 38,000 — the equivalent of putting nearly 30 acute beds back into the hospital system.

However, around half of patients admitted through emergency departments required to be isolated isolation because of flu, the winter vomiting virus, and other infections, and that put pressure on beds.

The director of the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, John Cuddihy, said that in the weeks over Christmas there were more than 750 people admitted with flu, reflecting the “very steep peak” in flu activity.

There have been 22 flu deaths reported and 17 were of people aged 65 years and older.

Dr Hamilton said the flu vaccine was an extremely good match this year.

“Despite us being in the midst of a very busy flu season, it is not too late to vaccinate,” she said. “We anticipate there are approximately five more weeks of the flu season left.”

Meanwhile, Mallow General Hospital has imposed strict visiting restrictions to control the spread of flu in the hospital.

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