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Plan to expand critical care capacity to 446 beds announced

A strategic multi-year plan to expand adult critical care capacity from 255 beds to 446 beds has been announced.

Work on Phase One of the plan has already begun and will see 321 adult critical care beds in place by the end of 2021, compared to 255 at the start of this year. This will be funded by €52 million allocated in Budget 2021. This funding will also allow for education and training initiatives to increase the critical care workforce and for investment in critical care retrieval services. Under Phase One, an additional 8 beds will be created in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in 2022, subject to completion of the necessary infrastructural development and planning processes, and with funding to be sought within the 2022 estimates process.

Completion of Phase Two will see a further 117 beds added through the development of new build capacity at five prioritised sites, subject to necessary approval processes. These sites include Beaumont Hospital, St James’s Hospital, the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, St Vincent’s University Hospital and Cork University Hospital.

The multi-year plan was noted by Government this week. As well as addressing historical under-capacity, the plan supports wider strategic reform and service improvement. When implemented, it will fully address the recommendations of the 2018 Health Service Capacity Review.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “Ensuring the right resources are in place for our most critically ill patients is a priority for me and for this Government. This plan is a major milestone in the expansion of our critical care capacity.  At the start of this year, there were 255 adult critical care beds in the country. We are increasing this number to 321 by end of 2021 – a 25 per cent increase. To put this in context, the 2019 National Adult Critical Care Bed Capacity Census reported an additional 21 beds opened over the three-year period from 2017 to 2019, an average of seven per year. The plan will ultimately bring us to 446 critical care beds, not only addressing but exceeding the 2018 Health Service Capacity Review recommendation of 430 beds.”

Minister Donnelly added: “This investment will help our health service to deliver the right care in the right place at the right time. This plan will also support strategic reform and service improvement in areas including trauma and transplant where we know that access to adequate critical care capacity is core to delivering best outcomes. I also want to take this opportunity to thank our frontline workers who have cared for patients in our critical care units, and indeed across our health system, throughout the pandemic. Their commitment and dedication during this enormously challenging time has been remarkable.”

Dr Michael Power, National Clinical Lead for the Critical Care Programme, said: “Thousands of critically ill people are cared for in our critical care units every year across Ireland. The clinicians in the critical care community delivered top class critical care to critically ill Covid and non-Covid patients in very challenging circumstances over recent months. The significant investment provided now in Budget 2021 and the plan to address the overall adult critical care capacity deficit are vital to enable access and the best outcomes for our critically ill patients. The focus on critical care workforce, education and training is a key part of the critical care plan.”

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