Plan to provide 1,500 new hospital beds by 2028 to be outlined today

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly expected to make announcement on Wednesday, with a further tranche of more hospital beds likely to be scheduled for between 2028 and 2030

About 1,500 new acute hospital beds will be put in place within the next five years, the Government is due to promise on Wednesday. It is understood Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly will give the commitment for the 1,500 new beds to be introduced between 2025 and 2028.

An announcement on the provision of a further tranche of additional acute hospital beds, to be put in place between 2028 and 2030, is also believed to be likely in the near future. Some sources suggested on Tuesday that this could involve the provision of a further 800 or so additional acute hospital beds.

The Minister has come under strong criticism from doctors, nurses and healthcare campaigners, who argue there are insufficient beds in public hospitals to cater for a rising and ageing population. Campaigners and trade unions claim the shortage of beds is leading to the serious overcrowding problems experienced in hospitals such as Limerick.

There are currently more than 12,000 beds in acute hospitals across the country.


Critics and campaigners are likely to watch carefully to see the funding level to be allocated for the additional beds to be announced on Wednesday by Mr Donnelly, coming as it does in advance of the local and European elections. They are also expected to scrutinise if any of the new beds are to replace those in existing facilities.

The announcement by Mr Donnelly comes as hospitals are already facing financial pressures. The HSE recorded an overrun of about €500 million in the first four months of the year. The secretary general of the Department of Health, Robert Watt, said in early May that about 75 per cent of this overspending was in the acute hospital sector.

The Irish Times understands that Taoiseach Simon Harris told Fine Gael local election candidates this week that the Government would announce the provision of additional hospital beds.

Earlier this month the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) told the Oireachtas Committee on Health that Ireland needed an additional 5,000 acute hospital beds over a relatively short period of time.

“This lack of bed capacity is most visible when it comes to the dangerous year-round levels of overcrowding in our emergency departments. The practice of boarding patients on trolleys – patients who have been deemed ill enough to be admitted – is dangerous for the patient and unsustainable for the staff working in our emergency departments,” said IMO chief executive Susan Clyne.

“Ireland has a quoted hospital bed occupancy rate of in excess of 97 per cent, the actual occupancy rates often exceed 105 per cent in many of our acute hospitals.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is the former Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent