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Hospital failed to open ‘winter’ beds for months

One hospital failed to open any of its targeted acute beds in April under the Winter Plan 2018/19, while all other hospitals involved had reached their targets, according to the Open Beds Report April 2019, which was published by the Department of Health last month.

None of the targeted six acute beds were opened at Midland Regional Hospital, Tullamore, in April. The hospital also had zero of its targeted acute beds open in March and in February. Overall, February saw 54 of 75 of the targeted acute beds open under the winter plan; March saw 60; and April 69.

When asked about the issue, a spokesperson for Midland Regional Hospital told the Medical Independent (MI): “Following a recruitment initiative, the six additional beds were opened in June 2019.”

According to the Open Beds Report for April, all of the targeted beds were opened in Cork University Hospital (five beds); South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital, Cork (three); St Columcille’s Hospital, Dublin (eight); Tallaght University Hospital (six); Connolly Hospital, Dublin (20); Galway University Hospital (four); Merlin Park University Hospital, Galway (four); University Hospital Waterford (six); University Hospital Limerick (old surgical assessment unit) (five); University Hospital Limerick (cardiology) (three); and Letterkenny University Hospital (five).

There have been an average of 10,973 inpatient beds available during 2019, according to the report, which is the highest number of available inpatient beds on average since 2010.

However, capacity within the acute system remains under huge strain, with figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation showing over 400 patients on trolleys on multiple days in July.

Some €30 million in funding was designated under the winter plan to provide support for older persons and to create additional capacity within the system.

Under the plan, 145 beds were proposed, comprising 66 community beds, four rehab beds and 75 acute beds.

The Health Service Capacity Review 2018 recommended an increase of 2,590 acute hospital beds across the system by 2031 to support the projected increase in demand for services. The National Development Plan commits to delivering this number by 2027.

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