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According to Dr Gilligan, the root causes of recurring overcrowding are lack of beds, lack of doctors and other staff, and a poorly resourced GP infrastructure.
“Politicians often complicate what is a very simple explanation for our overcrowding crisis. It’s not because of seasonal issues or a spike in flu cases. It’s because politicians knowingly and deliberately took 1,600 beds out of our hospitals, introduced policies that were a direct cause of doctors emigrating and failed to invest in general practice. All this at a time when our population was rising and there are more elderly people than ever before in need of healthcare. It doesn’t get simpler than this; we’ve reduced the size of the container but we’re still trying to get more and more into it every day. It just won’t work.”
Dr Gilligan criticised the response of successive Governments to the problem.
“To those of us working in the system there is no surprise in the numbers, in fact it is nothing short of a miracle that they are not even higher. It’s time to treat this matter with the seriousness it deserves rather than expressing disappointment and surprise each time it manifests itself. Full capacity protocols have their place in extreme cases but they too are now becoming the norm which will mean more problems down the line for patients as their long awaited procedures are postponed. Patients who are on trollies in our emergency departments need a hospital bed, not more promises. Government must act now and commit the funds required to run our health services to meet the real demand not some notional level of activity.”
In a statement yesterday, the HSE said “many hospitals” were reporting “a significant surge” in demand “as the number of reported cases of winter related illnesses such as influenza, respiratory illness and norovirus continue to increase”.