Protesters in Letterkenny University Hospital during a visit by Minister for Health Simon Harris.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has attributed the beds crisis at Letterkenny University Hospital, and other hospitals around the country, to a significant outbreak of infections, but has given assurances of more investment in health services.
The health minister was speaking today during a visit to the hospital to open the new Donegal Medical Academy, the new integrated Blood Sciences Department and the new Postgraduate Medical Learning Centre.
The hospital has been experiencing one of its worst winters for overcrowding at its emergency department in recent years. The minister said the recruitment and retention of staff and “a significant outbreak of infections” had put additional pressure on hospitals.
According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) there were 22 patients waiting on beds at the emergency department this morning, a figure the minister put at just ten.
Local campaigners for increased funding for health services protested outside the hospital ahead of the visit. Protesters in the hospital foyer shouted “beds not trolleys” as the minister passed them on a tour of the new facilities.
He said more will be spent on health in 2017 than ever before and Letterkenny University Hospital’s 2016 budget of €120m will be increased further next year.
The minister said there will be an extra 1,000 nurses and doctors recruited for the health service.
“For all that you do hear politically about some people who wish to portray the health situation, we are investing more in health in 2017 than ever before, including in the heyday of the Celtic Tiger,” he said.
“What I can say is that we are back in an era of reinvesting in health. I would be the first to say that we have come through an extraordinary difficult time and there is some brilliant people that work here in this hospital people, and indeed in our health service right through the country, and we need to support them.”
The minister said health services in Donegal are safe. “Only only are your services safe, I want to see your services enhanced. Donegal, like much of the country, has seen a number of very, very difficult years, indeed it has been an extraordinary difficult number of years for our public services in general, but we are back now in a period of reinvesting in our health system. This hospital had a budget of €210m in 2016 and I expect that to increase in 2017.”
The minister was due to meet with local health service campaign groups after officially opening the new facilities.