Extra 834 acute hospital beds delivered this year, Dáil told

Hospital system ‘close to full capacity’ in recent weeks, says Stephen Donnelly

An additional 834 acute hospital beds have been delivered this year to date with a further 229 expected, according to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.

He added that “in addition, 73 sub-acute beds have been added with 40 more planned for this year.”

But the Minister acknowledged that the hospital system has been “close to full capacity in recent weeks”.

He said on Tuesday the HSE estimated that for the week ending July 4th attendances at emergency departments were up 12 per cent on the same time in 2019 as he acknowledged that the overcrowding has caused distress for patients, their families, and staff.


Mr Donnelly told Sinn Féin health spokesman David Cullinane in the Dáil that they "have increased steadily since the beginning of the year and were almost back to 2019 levels, for the same time that year, just before the ransomware attack occurred in May".

He said the 12 per cent increase was linked to the opening up of society as Covid-19 restrictions are lifted and to additional GP referrals because of issues around accessing diagnostics as a result of the ransomware attack.

All these issues have contributed to slower progress of patients through the system, he said.

During health question time Mr Cullinane said healthcare trade unions had been warning that overcrowding “is very close to being back at pre-pandemic levels, which is unacceptable”.

Substantial funding had been provided to increase home support hours and the strategic plan for critical care is now in place, the Minister added.

Pointing out that 834 acute beds had been provided this year and 73 sub-acute beds, he said the HSE “aims to increase ICU capacity to 321 by the end of this year and to 446 in the longer term.

“The €52 million provided for implementation of this plan will allow for an additional 66 beds to be put in place. The HSE has advised that 42 of those 66 beds are now open, bringing our baseline capacity to 297 beds as of right now.”

The Minister said of 30,000 parliamentary questions tabled in the first half of this year 25 per cent were to his department, almost three times the number of questions to the next “most popular destination, the Department of Education” which received 9 per cent of questions.

He said the cyber-attack in May continued to cause delays in responding to those questions and there are approximately 1,400 questions the department is in the process of answering.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times