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Minister dismisses importance of number of patients waiting on trolleys

Minister for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly has said it is “immaterial” how many patients are on hospital trolleys, stating the more important metric is the length of time they are waiting. 

Speaking exclusively to the Medical Independent, Minister Daly said the media and politicians are complicit and “lazy” in creating “too much focus” on hospital trolley numbers. 

“It’s immaterial how many people are on trolleys. If there’s about 40 people on trolleys in CUH [Cork University Hospital] today, well, to be quite honest there’d be something wrong if there was 40 empty beds in CUH today to accommodate those people,” Minister Daly said. “You can’t have an acute hospital with 40 empty beds wondering whether or not they’ll turn up today or tomorrow. It’s the length of time people spend on trolleys is what matters, not the number of people on trolleys. But [the] media and politicians are a bit lazy and like to go for headlines and all of that stuff. What’s far more important is delayed discharges… if you solved that, you’d solve your trolleys, but there is no focus on that.”

Minister Daly also refuted the argument that there is insufficient mental health funding in Ireland and added that a lot of money spent on mental health came from other budgets, such as primary care. “Lack of funding remains arguably the biggest obstacle to an effective mental health service,” Chair of the Committee on the Future of Mental Health Care, Senator Joan Freeman, said late last year. 

“That’s a nonsense argument,” according to Minister Daly. “Politicians love it and the media love it. It’s figures and headlines, but it’s rubbish… We’re spending a billion euro this year on mental health for the first time in the history of the State… I’m not looking for any more money. I’m looking for much better utilisation of the resources we have and a more streamlined access and referral pathway for people.”

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