Irish Examiner view: Bed shortages must be tackled in healthcare reform

Healthcare reform
Irish Examiner view: Bed shortages must be tackled in healthcare reform

 Health Stephen Donnelly speaking to media outside Reeves Day Surgery, Tallaght University Hospital, as he launches the Sláintecare Implementation Strategy & Action Plan 2021-2023.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has unveiled ambitious health reform targets for the next three years. The question is whether any or all of those targets will be met. Considering that an additional €3.5bn is to be set aside for the health service for 2021, the chances are that they will.

Under the plan, three new elective hospitals will be built in Cork, Dublin and Galway, and 7,000 community-based healthcare staff will be hired over the next three years, according to ambitious Sláintecare targets unveiled yesterday.

There is little doubt that the pandemic has stretched our health service, but it has also given it scope for improvement. For the first time, the HSE will have the financial means to bring the Sláintecare health reform plans to fruition. The pity of it is that it took a pandemic for the Government to realise that our health service is chronically underfunded.

However, as the Covid crisis abates, there are signs that, in some areas, we may be going back to the bad old days. Each week has seen increasing levels of patients waiting for beds. “Although the levels of Covid are reducing, the long-standing trolley crisis is again rearing its head,” according to Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation president Karen McGowan.

The shortage of hospital beds must be addressed with urgency. It is placing intolerable pressure on an exhausted workforce, who are working to provide mass vaccinations in addition to Covid and non-Covid healthcare.

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