Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams has described the fact that the Minister for Health has not yet produced a Winter Initiative for 2018/19 as ‘ominous’.
Deputy Adams said;
“It is clear that many years of underinvestment in frontline health services and staff have resulted in what can only be described as a permanent state of crisis in our healthcare system.
“In our hospitals, which provide acute care to the most vulnerable people, we witnessed record levels of overcrowding during the summer due to a shortage of beds and inadequate care availability in the community.
“Relentless pressure on staff has led to a crisis in the recruitment and retention of nurses.
“Just yesterday nursing and midwifery delegates belonging to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation and the Psychiatric Nurses Association voted to reject government proposals which do not sufficiently deal with the issue of pay, setting the scene for industrial action.
“The Minister is well aware that the winter presents increased challenges to Emergency Departments, yet in a reply to a parliamentary question which I tabled earlier this month, he admits that preparations have only begun at hospital and local level.
“In 2016 the Winter Initiative was published on 9th September. But this year Minister Harris has confirmed that he has not yet even met with all of the chairpersons of the hospital groups.
“Coupled with the ominous absence of a winter initiative, there are currently 169 staff vacancies across Emergency Departments.
“The Minister has informed me that he has filled these vacancies through the use of expensive agency staff and overtime arrangements – this is not acceptable and it is not sustainable.
“The Minister has been in situ for over two years, he must step up to the mark to ensure safe levels of care in our hospitals this coming winter.”