Wednesday, 28 February 2001
Dáil Eireann Debate
49. Mr. D'Arcy asked the Minister for Health and Children if he will make a statement on the recent report from the Eastern Regional Health Authority that it will need a further 1,276 beds by 2011 to cope with ever growing demand from inside and outside the region. [5491/01]
Minister for Health and Children (Mr. Martin): As the Deputy is aware, I have initiated a national review of bed capacity in the acute and non-acute sectors, on foot of the commitment by Government in the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness. The review is being conducted by my Department in conjunction with the Department of Finance and in consultation with the social partners. Funding of £32 million has been approved to date on foot of phase one of the review to help alleviate service pressures and to maintain services to patients in the acute hospital sector, particularly over the winter period.
As part of phase two of the review, the Eastern Regional Health Authority, ERHA, has prepared a comprehensive needs assessment indicating a requirement for 1,276 additional acute beds by 2011 to meet increasing demands. The objective of the ERHA review was to determine whether additional acute beds are required within the Eastern Region based on good standards of efficiency; population characteristics; and medical and health care developments. The ERHA assessment of need has also shown that hospital activity in the eastern region has become more efficient, evidenced by increased activity, reduced length of stay and a high proportion of day cases. However, demand is exacerbated by a steady increase in emergency admissions, winter pressures in respiratory conditions, exceptionally high occupancy levels, a steady decline in elective admissions, persistently high waiting list levels for  elective specialities and a level of inappropriate bed days-length of stay for elderly patients.
The ERHA report also identifies a need to increase the number of non-acute beds for the care of older people in the region. This is seen as essential in order to allow for increased capacity and throughput in acute hospitals. The work of the ERHA will inform the preparation of a national assessment of bed requirements. The national review will be completed in April 2001.
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