Speaking after recent figures showed the number of patients on hospital trolleys across the state at its highest level ever, Sinn Fein spokesperson for social protection and TD for Wicklow/East Carlow said that the ongoing crisis in our health service, which has manifested itself in unprecedented numbers of patients on trolleys has not developed overnight. This crisis is the result of years of under investment and it is a direct result of government policy. Therefore only a change in the approach of the government will yield results.
Teachta Brady said:
“It will come as no surprise that the worst hit Hospital in Dublin is the one Wicklow residents rely on most. Many people might remember the dispute at St Vincent’s University Hospital accident and emergency last year when over-crowding became so intolerable that nursing staff were forced to take industrial action. At the time I pointed out that part of the reason conditions were so difficult at St Vincent’s was because of a government decision to restrict services at St Columcilles Hospital in Loughlinstown. St Columcilles had provided a valuable accident and emergency service to Wicklow patients for decades but the decision to cut services forced people onwards to St Vincent’s which in turn put ridiculous pressure on services there.”
“The cuts at St Columcilles were forced through by the Fine Gael/Labour coalition at the time with the full support of all five Wicklow TDs including the now minister for health Simon Harris. We were promised at the time that the cuts at St Columcilles would be counter balanced with increased funding for higher capacity at St Vincent’s. Unsurprisingly that promise was never honoured.”
Teachta Brady said history is repeating itself:
“The recent figure of 612 people languishing on hospital trolleys is the highest figure ever. Again, the Dublin hospital worst affected is St Vincent’s University Hospital. St Vincent’s is caught in the net of a hapless government decision that yet again has come back to haunt them. The Irony of course is that Wicklow TD Simon Harris is now Minister for Health, his own government’s decision to effectively shut down emergency services at St Columcilles has led to a second year of crises at St Vincent’s where the real victims are the patients and staff. Harris has tried to explain away the problem on the basis that the current flu epidemic could not have been predicted. He is probably the only Health Minister on the face of the Earth who couldn’t foresee an increase in Flu virus in the winter.”
Teachta Brady said the establishment parties cannot have it every way:
“Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and Labour with their cut and hide policies have again left us a mountain to climb. It’s not rocket science; you simply cannot cut resources and expect public services to keep pace. If you cut access to Accident and Emergency as in the case of St Columcilles in Loughlinstown; and then refuse to invest elsewhere to pick up the slack, you are going to run into a world of problems. In this case it is the wider population of South County Dublin and Wicklow who are paying the price. Simon Harris needs to stop trying to cover up for his own party decisions that have come back to haunt him. Either restore appropriate services at St Columcilles in Loughlinstown or invest adequately in St Vincent’s.”
Teachta Brady concluded
"There are very clear measures that the Minister could immediately take which would begin the process of dealing with the chronic overcrowding. I believe this should start with the reopening of 500 beds in our hospitals, including the closed 23 beds in St Bridget’s ward in St Columcilles. I also believe that we need to increase the capacity in primary care. This would enable more patients to transfer to a community setting. This can only be done by increasing home help hours and recruiting more therapists.
"We need to be clear - the buck stops with Minister Simon Harris. He needs to get a grip of this situation and meaningfully address the emergency in our hospitals. One thing is obvious - he needs to stop looking for excuses and start focusing on finding solutions."