Ireland's hospitals need at least 2,600 new beds in the next 15 years according to a new report.
The Health Capacity Review says the figure could rise to 7,000 if the HSE isn’t reformed.
The Review projects there will also be a 70 per cent increase in demand for homecare and an almost doubling in demand for primary care.
The reports comes amid the latest hospital trolley crisis which has seen unprecedented levels of hospital overcrowding.Reacting to the report Health Minister Simon Harris warned money is not the only answer in improving services and increasing capacity.
“It is clear that investment and reform must now happen in tandem and must be mutually supportive of each other.”
Fianna Fáil Health Spokesperson, Billy Kelleher has said that while the report was welcome, the ability of the HSE and the Department of Health to deliver beds in the short term will be the measure of Minister Harris’s commitment to end overcrowding in our hospitals.
“This bed review took a very long time to be completed, finalised and published. The next stage cannot be allowed take so long.
“I am calling on Minister Harris to give a commitment to undergo an audit, if he hasn’t already done so, of existing hospitals to identify opportunities to open new beds in previously closed or re-orientated facilities.
“The Minister has now been in office for over 18 months; the time for excuses has long passed,” concluded Kelleher.
The President of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA) welcomed the publication of the Review and the implicit recognition that a lack of basic bed capacity is a fundamental problem in health care in Ireland.
Dr Tom Ryan, President of the IHCA, said that the Association recognises the parallel need to dedicate more resources to primary and community care and welcomes the recommendations to expand community care.However, he expressed concern that the projected increased capacity requirements of 2,600 beds by 2031 is over optimistic in respect to the benefits that will accrue from expanded and reformed community care.
Dr Ryan said: “It is now imperative to deliver acute hospital and day care beds so that the waiting lists can be reduced, so that our hospitals will be safe for patients and so that we can improve our populations’ health. Given the current state of health care in Ireland, any delay implementing these proposals will expose the population to the consequences of under resourced acute hospital services.”
The IHCA revealed they have sought a meeting with the Minister for Health, Mr Simon Harris, to discuss the optimum ways to address the overwhelming acute hospital capacity deficits which are preventing the timely delivery of care to patients.
Welcoming the review the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation suggested Minister Harris’s acknowledgement that investment and reform must go hand in hand if we are to break the cycle of hospital overcrowding. Phil Ni Sheaghdha, General Secretary of the INMO said the recruitment of nurses is the key to the realisation of the necessary increased capacity.
"The simple reality is that, under the current conditions, the Irish health service is failing to either attract or retain nurses. The public service pay commission should recognise this and allow the government the freedom to do what is necessary to meet the clear needs identified in this report.
“All of these beds need a planned funded recruitment and retention strategy for nurses on a multi annual basis. We are currently losing this battle and unless conditions are significantly improved for nurses this year, 2031 will remain an aspiration”.
The INMO also suggested that less than half of the required nurses to care for the additional admitted patients in the ED Departments have been recruited since agreed over a year ago.