The country's public hospitals are short at least 1,000 beds, according to the latest analysis from think-tank ESRI, which has also estimated that over 300 extra beds could be needed every year.
It comes against a backdrop of ongoing overcrowding at almost every public hospital in the country, with 679 patients unable to get a bed on Tuesday, according to figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation.
The ESRI research note uses existing data with the final projection based on keeping hospitals not more than 85% full for safety reasons.
“We estimate that in 2023 there may be a bed capacity deficit of approximately 1,000 inpatient beds in public acute hospitals,” the analysis states.
“This bed capacity deficit is likely a key contributor to recent overcrowding issues experienced in public acute hospitals.”
The ESRI estimates that "over 300 additional inpatient beds are required per annum to keep up with demand pressures arising from an increasing and ageing population”.
It also found that “despite the population aged 65+ using more than half of all inpatient bed days, beds per 1,000 population aged 65+ have decreased considerably in recent years”.
Complied by researchers Brendan Walsh and Aoife Brick, the analysis does not take into account the covid pandemic’s impact on health services.
“The lasting effects in terms of infection control measures, covid-19 outbreaks in hospitals, and increases in public hospital waiting lists may mean the estimates in Figure 2 underestimate the bed capacity shortfall in 2023,” the analysis says, referring to graphs in the publication.
It also cautions that bed requirements should be considered in light of staffing, buildings, and costs.
Overall, the researchers found that despite increases in bed numbers per head of population “they remain amongst the lowest in the OECD”.