Following the horrific and shocking RTÉ Investigates programme “Living on the List” which aired recently, Deputy Broughan asked a large number of Parliamentary Questions to the Minister for Health, Simon Harris. One of those questions was for the Minister to outline the number of acute hospital beds in 1987, 1997, 2007 and 2017 and to outline the number of consultants or specialist doctors per capita in each of those years also.
The reply provides the number of beds available in each hospital in 2007 as the HSE Business Intelligence Unit (BIU) only began collecting data in 2006. The reply states “while the number of resourced beds in clearly an important factor, the understanding and focus has shifted to a more holistic approach to which the aim is to put the patient or service user in the right place in the system where his/her needs, will be best met.” The reply states that “to this end, the HSE is continually developing and improving day services and developments which facilitate hospital admission avoidance” and lists a number of examples including “increased provision of CIT services which support IV drug administration in the home”, the increase of day surgery rates and the opening of Medical Assessment Units and Acute Medical Assessment Units “at all major hospitals”
Nationally there were 12,044 inpatient beds in acute hospitals in 2007 and just 10,613 up to the end of September 2016. Conversely, daycase beds increased from 1,545 in 2007 to 2,104 up to the end of September 2016. Beaumont Hospital in Deputy Broughan’s constituency of Dublin Bay North reduced its inpatient bed count from 668 in 2007 to 621 up to the end of September 2016.
Deputy Broughan says “While the overall national totals don’t seem to have reduced drastically (from 13,589 in 2007 down to 12,717 up to the end of September 2016), what again is not referred to in these answers is the growth in population. We know that from statistics prepared before the HSE existed that acute beds were disastrously cut from the 1987 Fianna Fáil government. Demographics in Ireland are changing and a more interesting analysis would include the number of beds per capita in 2007 and 2017. Health is clearly under-resourced, under-staffed and under-valued by Ministers more interested in leadership of a conservative party running public services into the ground and leaving people living on waiting lists for essential surgeries. Fine Gael like Fianna Fáil clearly believes in strict rationing for our health system.
I was also informed that in 1987 there was 1 consultant per 3,233 people, in 1997 there was 1 consultant per 2,810 people, in 2007 there was 1 consultant per 1,992 people and in 2017 there is 1 consultant per 1,568 people. The fall in ratio of consultants to citizens is of course welcome. However, the population has grown and the fall in the number of consultants per capita is not sufficiently matching our demographic changes as we know from seeing the children and adults suffering in the ‘Living on the List’ investigative programme. We simply do not have enough specialists to perform these urgent surgeries and this must be remedied immediately.”