Belfast Telegraph

Simon Coveney compared to Titanic music conductor over health service handling

The Tanaiste is accused of failing to see the scale of issues facing hospitals, as the Government announces its Winter Health Plan.

Simon Coveney is accused of being in denial about the scale of the issues facing the health service (Rebecca Black/PA)
Simon Coveney is accused of being in denial about the scale of the issues facing the health service (Rebecca Black/PA)

By Aine McMahon PA

Simon Coveney has been accused of being like the conductor of the Titanic orchestra over the Government’s handling of issues facing the health service.

The Government is to release its 26 million euro Winter Health Plan to tackle overcrowding and hospital waiting lists on Thursday.

The new plan is set to provide extra beds, home care, extra medical resources, increased nursing, pharmacy and laboratory staff and therapies support.

You remind me of the conductor of the Titanic orchestra, you keep playing music while the ship is going down Dara Calleary TD

Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary outlined a number of issues facing the health service at Leaders Questions in the Dail and accused the Deputy Irish Premier of being in denial about the scale of the crisis.

It was reported on Thursday that overcrowding in the Rotunda Maternity Hospital in Dublin was putting infant lives at risk.

“We also read in this morning’s Irish Times there has been an increased number of patients dying of sepsis and infectious diseases in 2018, cases are up 10% in our hospitals across the country,” Mr Calleary said.

The plan will see management staffing timely access to the most appropriate care pathways for patients and appropriate, timely discharge from acute hospitals Simon Coveney

“There is the incident that happened in an emergency department in Galway some weeks back where an elderly lady aged 74 was assaulted by an aggressive patient in the emergency room on a trolley.

“She fell out and broke her hip, and unfortunately, following treatment, she passed away.

“Her family are obviously devastated. The devastation of their loss has been compounded enormously by the circumstances in which her death happened, and they are looking for answers as to why this kind of thing is happening in emergency rooms across the country.”

Mr Calleary also highlighted the number of vacant hospital consultant posts and posts being held by non-consultant hospital doctors.

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Simon Coveney said the Government had to justify spending on health staff (Julien Behal/PA)

“You remind me of the conductor of the Titanic orchestra, you keep playing music while the ship is going down,” Mr Calleary said.

In response, Mr Coveney said the health service was under considerable pressure and that the Winter Plan announced on Thursday would tackle many of the issues.

“What we are doing here is to try to keep people out of hospitals, and to try to discharge people from hospital in a more timely manner,” he said.

“If we can get patients into an appropriate community setting, or at home, or wherever there are step-down facilities.

There are beds closed right across the country because support and staff are not available to staff them Dara Calleary TD

“Under the Winter plan, nine interaction teams, each aligned to hospital groups, have prepared integrated winter plans that will focus on demand.

“The plan will see management staffing timely access to the most appropriate care pathways for patients and appropriate, timely discharge from acute hospitals.”

Mr Calleary said the Health Service Executive (HSE) moratorium introduced earlier this year meant that while there may be more hospital beds, there were not enough people to staff them.

A recruitment and overtime ban was brought in by the HSE owing to “financial pressure” caused by a surge in recruitment last year.

“There are beds closed right across the country because support and staff are not available to staff them,” Mr Calleary said.

Mr Coveney said the Government had to justify spending on health staff.

“Every week we have this debate around a moratorium on recruitment in the HSE. People are being employed in the HSE but it has to be employment that has funding,” he said.

“If we commit to spending money that we have not budgeted for each year … we have huge overspending and have for many years now and the Government has been criticised for that.

“What we are doing is employing extra people, but in a way that’s consistent with the extra resources that will be made available. We can’t go beyond that.

“And so people in this house keep calling for more and more and more money to be spent that hasn’t been budgeted for but then criticising the Government for overspending.”

PA

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