The IMO has warned that investment in additional hospital beds is not keeping pace with population growth and that the current “dire” situation will worsen unless rapid action is taken.
The warning comes after latest INMO figures show that over 700 patients around the country were waiting on a hospital bed today (Tuesday 2 May).
It also described recent revelations that just 162 new beds would be added to the Irish public hospital system this year as “shocking”.
The IMO said that being unable to move admitted patients to a ward bed in a timely manner is leading to poorer health outcomes for patients and intolerable conditions for those trying to treat them in an appropriate setting.
It added that, although senior decision-makers were working and available on weekends, discharge pathways and support services are not in place to enable patients to be transferred to appropriate care.
Prof Matthew Sadlier, Chair of the Consultant Committee of the IMO, said: “There is an acute need for 5,000 additional beds if we are to provide adequate care for the population. The dire shortage of beds adds to overcrowding in hospitals and EDs, longer waiting lists and poorer patient outcomes.
“It is unacceptable that over 700 patients are currently waiting on a hospital bed after the May bank holiday and emphasises that this is a year-round crisis.
“The idea that just 162 additional beds will be added to the stock this year is shocking and confirms that a long-standing bed shortage will get worse this year not better.”
The IMO cited international figures which highlight how far behind Ireland is in terms of bed capacity compared to other European countries. The average in Europe is 3.87 acute beds per 1,000 people whereas in Ireland the figure is just 2.7 beds per 1,000 of the population.
The IMO has previously called for the use of modular builds to provide additional capacity at hospitals which are under particular pressure.
Prof Sadlier said: “We have to go beyond tinkering with the beds issue. We need urgent action to alleviate crisis points and we need a commitment to a meaningful increase in the number of additional – not replacement – beds. This crisis will persist until we have sufficient beds and doctors to meet the needs of growth in our population and address the complexity of care required.”