Sinn Fein Councillor contests Government winter beds plans

Sinn Féin’s general election candidate in Longford/Westmeath, Cllr. Sorca Clarke, has stated the Government’s winter bed plan has been exposed as “hype and spin” as the facts with regard to its implementation become apparent.

“In the days following Christmas, the airwaves were dominated by the Minister for Health Simon Harris lauding his winter plan for hospitals. Yet, as we reach the end of January, the failure of the much lauded plan has become apparent as trolley numbers have increased.

“Many health service workers and medical professionals have raised their concerns with me and my party’s spokesperson on health, Deputy Louise O’Reilly. They explained that the reason numbers had decreased in the early days of the winter period was because the flu season had not yet hit, elective surgeries had been cancelled as per Minister Harris’ plan and that the public health system had purchased the use of additional beds from private hospitals,” Cllr. Clarke remarked.

The opening of beds was an essential component of the Minister’s winter plan but as of today, only half of the necessary quota are being utilised by patients, the Councillor noted.

“Out of a total of 75 planned bed openings under the winter plan, none of which were earmarked for Mullingar General Hospital, just 40 have been opened nationally, despite trolley numbers being well above 500 on a daily basis.

“While availability of any additional beds is to be welcomed, firty beds would only equate to removing approximately seven percent of the patients which were on trolleys on Monday of this week in our hospitals,” the Councillor added.

Cllr. Clarke highlighted the fall in the number of beds across the nations hospitals due to a lack of medical personnel staffing.

“In the last decade there has been a decrease of over 1,100 beds in our hospitals, mainly due to a lack of nurses and doctors to staff them. These beds need to be identified and additional staff recruited in order for the beds to be re-opened.

“However, unless this government addresses the recruitment and retention crisis affecting our nurses and doctors, these beds won’t be opened. Fine Gael have the power to tackle these issues, however, after eight years in charge of health, it is apparent they have not the appetite, the acumen, or the capabilities to do so,” Cllr. Clarke concluded.

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