No new hospital beds for Midwest in 2022

No new acute, sub-acute or ICU beds will be opened in the Midwest in 2022, according to HSE figures released to Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara.

In response to Deputy McNamara’s Parliamentary Question, the HSE’s Acute Operations department says none of the six hospitals in the UL Hospitals Group will receive any of the 411 acute and 36 ICU beds scheduled to be opened this year subject to staffing and completion of some capital works.

“The provision of additional bed capacity on its own will not resolve the overcrowding problems at University Hospital Limerick (UHL), but the delivery of new acute, sub-acute and ICU beds should certainly be part of the solution,” stated Deputy McNamara, who described the exclusion of all six hospitals in Clare, Limerick, and north Tipperary as “disgraceful”.

Of the 36 new ICU beds targeted to open in 2022, 32 are in Dublin (Tallaght University Hospital – 12, Mater Misericordiae University Hospital – 16, St Vincent’s University Hospital – 3, St James’s Hospital – 1) with the remaining four scheduled to open at Cork University Hospital.

“UHL is the most consistently overcrowded hospital in the country having recorded 76,000 attendances in 2021, up 16% compared to 2020 and up 7% on 2019, and with 91 people on trolleys awaiting a bed there today,” said Deputy McNamara.  “It is unbelievable therefore why the HSE has no plans to open any new beds this year at UHL, or at Ennis, Nenagh, Croom Orthopaedic, St. John’s and the Maternity hospitals.”

Deputy McNamara has questioned the effectiveness of the proposed strategic plan being developed by HIQA and UL Hospitals Group in relation to addressing capacity issues at UHL.

“The entire review process is being undermined when the provision of additional bed capacity in the Midwest is completely overlooked. Hospital management and staff appear to be firefighting on the issue of overcrowding as opposed to identifying and rectifying the issues that are causing the problem.  Increasing bed capacity, while not a panacea, must be part of that solution as failure to do so will lead to a continuation of crippling overcrowding problems at UHL,” he explained.

Deputy McNamara says a full review of operations within the UL Hospitals Group is required if lasting solutions to the overcrowding issues are to be identified and implemented.

“Additional outside expertise and input mist be deployed in any strategic review of ongoing capacity issues at UHL as the process of undertaking internal reviews has delivered no measurable improvements to date.  Overcrowding has in fact worsened in recent years,” he stated.

“HIQA has a limited remit and would not be able to put forward such recommendations as the upgrading of Ennis, Nenagh or St. Johns to Model 3 Hospitals.  There needs to be an assessment of admission and discharge policies at UHL, as well as the impact of population growth on the demand for services within the UL Hospitals Group.  There also needs to be a serious examination of why UL Hospitals Group is not receiving any of the hundreds of new acute and ICU beds scheduled to be opened nationwide this year,” concluded Deputy McNamara.

“The people of the Midwest continue to be failed by the HSE and by this government, despite repeated commitments by HSE officials and Ministers to address capacity issues in the region,” added Deputy McNamara.

Responding to Deputy McNamara’s Parliamentary Question, the HSE said, “As Part of the National Service Planning Programme for 2021 the HSE planned to open 1146 beds. Of these, 807 beds opened in 2021, with the remaining 339 scheduled to open in 2022 subject to staffing and completion of some capital works. In addition, a further 72 beds have been identified in the National Service Plan, of which the South South-West Hospital Group are examining the capital requirements for 24 beds in Cork University Hospital, and the Ireland East Group plan to open 47 beds in the Mater Hospital subject to staffing and the completion of capital works. This brings to 411 the number of acute beds expected to open in 2022.  In addition, a further 36 ICU beds are also scheduled to open this year.”