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“I could use the same slides every year in this presentations. In fact, some of you say I have used the same slides every year,” said Mr Varley.
“But they are updated… I should say that last year’s message has got worse. It has deteriorated. There are more patients on trolleys, more patients on waiting lists, more cancellations on the surgical lists. The question is, why are politicians not responding? I think it is one or two things — they either don’t know about them, or they are ignoring them.”
He said that “we see headlines about money going into a health black hole” but he called this a “ lazy analysis”.
“I very much doubt there is much spare capacity, if at all, in our acute hospital system… There is no more capacity to be squeezed out of the pips of the lemons in terms of the acute hospitals.”
Addressing Minister for State Jim Daly directly, Mr Varley told him “these beds are needed now; there is a huge urgency about it”. Mr Varley said it took eight years to create beds in the public service and this “creates a serious concern among our members and I’m sure among the population. Is there some way of fast-tracking the planning?”
In response, Minister Daly said: “You have to appreciate, and I apologise in advance for this — I can’t make policy decisions here, I can’t announce new policies. I can listen, I can understand and I sit down with my colleagues on a regular basis where we discuss these issues… ”
Commenting on the lack of hospital beds, theatre operating space and other facilities, IHCA President Dr Donal O’Hanlon said: “Contrary to common perception, our public hospitals are poorly funded compared to other countries in Europe. We spend much less of our total health budget on acute hospitals than other countries.
“Despite all the promises from Government, it is already too late for the 100,000 acutely-ill patients who are destined to be treated on trolleys this year. It is a major concern that, heretofore, on average it has taken around eight years from design to opening additional beds in public hospitals, compared with less than half that time in private hospitals.
“While the Department of Health and HSE-commissioned Prospectus Report in 2009 recommended that the intensive care unit (ICU) bed capacity in our public hospitals should be increased by 45 per cent within one year and doubled by 2020, there has been no increase in ICU capacity nine years later.”