Tomorrow, at the Joint Oireachtas Health Committee meeting with the HSE on issues facing acute hospitals and the Winter Plan, People Before Profit TD and health spokesperson Gino Kenny TD, will raise the issues of ICU capacity and the lack of a government plan to prevent the increased spread of Covid 19 infections.
The reliance on a vaccine only strategy means that we are now in the grip of another Covid-19 wave. This is because the Government refused to listen to the science telling them to regulate for and invest in ventilation in workplaces, to have robust and comprehensive test and trace systems, and high-quality masks.
In response to these escalating crises in public health, the Government finally published its Winter Plan, seven weeks later than last year. But the Winter Plan funding of €77.1m is just 0.35% of annual health budget (one third of one per cent), and over a quarter of this will go to private hospitals.
The TD will also raise the need for the government to invest in PCR testing capacity as people are finding it almost impossible to get tests, currently.
Deputy Gino Kenny will say: “Our public health system has only 3 hospital beds per 1000 population, when the OECD average is 5. Our ICU bed capacity per capita is little more than half the average for OECD countries. We need at least 250 additional ICU beds to reach the OECD average, but the Government plans to add just 19 ICU beds next year. Almost 1 million patients will be on a waiting list by year end, with almost 300,000 waiting over a year. Last week we saw the shocking cancellation of a transplant operation in the Mater as a direct result of lack of ICU capacity. This is utterly unacceptable.
“The Government has failed in its public health responsibilities time after time during the pandemic, and now as another lockdown becomes more and more likely, it tries to hide from its failures behind bogus personal responsibility narratives.
“Now in the coming days we are likely to see a triggering of the Safety Net II arrangements for extra bed capacity from the private hospitals, resulting in more enormous sums of public money going to the shareholders of these hospitals.
“We need fundamental systemic change. As part of this fundamental change, the private hospitals should be permanently taken into the public system, and it should begin immediately as a foundational step in the establishment of a single tier National Health Service”.