Press Release

Minister Martin announces largest ever expansion of acute beds for public patients

The Minister for Health and Children, Mr. Micheál Martin T.D. today, 16 January 2002, announced the commissioning of an additional 709 acute beds in public hospitals at a cost of €65m. This is the first phase of the provision of 3,000 additional acute hospital beds by 2011, as announced in the Health Strategy, Quality and Fairness – A Health System For You.

Speaking at a press conference today outlining the details of a National Review of bed capacity, the Minister said that the vast majority of these additional beds will be in place in the current year as promised in the Health Strategy launched in 2001.

The findings of the Review helped to inform the Government in its decision to provide a total of 3000 acute beds, for public patients over the next 10 years. “This represents the largest ever concentrated expansion of acute hospital capacity in Ireland,” said the Minister.

He stated that the increase in bed capacity would allow the hospital system to significantly increase activity levels for public patients in the current year.

It is estimated that the increase bed capacity will enable over 30,000 additional public patients to be treated in the full year.

“The additional beds represent further tangible evidence of the commitment by this Government to investment in the development of additional facilities for the treatment of public patients, and to the reduction of waiting lists and waiting times,” said the Minister.

In addition to this 709 acute beds the North Western Health Board has submitted proposals to the Department with a view to further increasing capacity at Letterkenny General Hospital by 40 beds. A decision on this proposal will be made at an early date.

The Government is also committed in the Health Strategy, Quality and Fairness – a Health System for You to contracting an additional 200 beds from the private sector in the current year for the treatment of public patients. The Minister will shortly establish a Treatment Purchase Team for the purchase of this additional capacity from the private sector.

The Minister was speaking at the publication of the report, Acute Hospitals Bed Capacity – a National Review, which was prepared by the Department of Health and Children, in conjunction with the Department of Finance and in consultation with the Social Partners. It contains a detailed national study of acute hospital bed requirements for the ten-year period to 2011.

The study examines current capacity and activity and the development of a framework for estimating future bed requirements. It also takes account of current pressures, changing demographics, increasing demand and potential changes to clinical practice over the next ten years. Its conclusions highlight the need for a significant expansion of the number of hospital beds and associated staff and facilities in the years ahead.