Over half promised hospital beds yet to be delivered

MORE than half of the hospital beds promised in the Health Service Executive’s service plan for Letterkenny University Hospital this year have yet to be delivered.
Of the 39 acute beds that were promised in the HSE’s winter plan, 16 are open and it will be February, at the earliest, before the remaining 23 beds are provided.
The Chief Operations Officer of the Saolta University Health Group acknowledged the health service was expecting to face significant challenges in providing emergency care while also dealing with Covid-19 and other winter challenges.
Speaking at last week’s meeting of the Regional Health Forum, Ms Ann Cosgrove said the new 16-bed Medical 7 ward, which was initially used for the Green Pathway elective surgery, has been used for emergency admissions since early June.
One section of the newly opened 23-bed Medical 6 is currently being used for Medical day care treatment, another for urology while the remainder is being used to decant In-patients beds in order to facilitate the orthopaedic ward refurbishment.
“We got confirmation of funding, subject to recruitment, to staff two areas – one 16 bed and one 23 bed wards – through the Winter Plan last year.
“The 16-bedded ward is open but it will be next February, at the earliest, before the 23-bed ward is open once we get the necessary staff into the system,” Ms Cosgrove said.
Members heard that an overseas nursing recruitment campaign is underway from which LUH hopes to recruit 25 nurses to commence work early in the new year.
From December 2020 up to the end of October 2021 a total of 45 nurses have left Letterkenny University Hospital. Eight nurses retired, 12 took a career break, 6 were going abroad while the balance (19) left for other reasons.
During that time, the hospital has recruited 89 nurses but, currently, there are 45 unfilled posts for which the hospital is actively recruiting.
“We’re targeting a total of 48 nurses through the international recruitment process for Letterkenny – 25 of which we plan to have in place in January with the remainder coming in probably March, April time.
“There’s been an obvious drain on staffing because of Covid and the separate pathways we had to introduce. As a result, we haven’t been able to staff the 23 bedded ward yet as we need to get extra staff into the system,” Ms Cosgrove said.
Councillor Gerry McMonagle expressed concern at the ongoing pressures on staff and the lengthening waiting times at the Emergency Department (ED).
Eleven of the highest Emergency Department attendances recorded in Letterkenny have occurred in 2021 with daily attendance numbers greater than 160.
“Given the beds and staff shortage, how confident are you of getting the staff you are looking for to look after the extra beds?” he asked.
Mr Tony Canavan, CEO, Saolta, admitted that it would be after Christmas before any of the new beds would be commissioned.
“Ideally, we would have been bringing these additional beds on stream now or even a month ago but, unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. We’re confident that the international recruitment will help us to get there,” he said.
Meanwhile,  work is ongoing to recruit consultants and support staff in a number of specialities.
“Specifically this relates to respiratory, diabetes and older peoples services. It is anticipated that these new developments will help alleviate demand for acute inpatient beds and promote improved quality services delivered in the community,” he said.

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