18. Deputy Jim O’Callaghan asked the Minister for Health the reason for the 102% increase in overcrowding in St. Vincent’s University Hospital in January 2018 relative to January 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 6444/18 asked on 08 Feb 2018)

Minister for Health (Deputy Simon Harris): Tackling overcrowding in Emergency Departments (EDs) is a key commitment of the Government. Accordingly, as part of Budget 2018, €30 million in additional funding was provided in 2017, and a further €40 million is being made available in 2018, to manage the expected peak in demand for our health services over the winter period and strengthen capacity moving forward. Since the start of winter, 170 additional beds have opened nationally, including twenty two beds at St. Vincent’s University Hospital.

I am advised by the HSE that St. Vincent’s Hospital is currently working with the Ireland East Hospital Group to address the current challenges in the ED, due in part to the presentation of a more acute, older cohort of patients this winter. According to data from the HSE, St. Vincent’s Hospital has seen a 78% increase in trolley figures in January 2018, when compared to the same period last year.

The recent Health Capacity Review published by my Department identified pressures on hospitals arising from the increase in the population and the ageing of the population. This report will be used to inform the planning of added capacity in both hospitals and community services alongside reforms to achieve more and integrate service delivery.

Without losing sight of the distress for patients and front-line staff experiencing these challenges, it must be acknowledged that St. Vincent’s Hospital significantly improved their trolley performance in 2017, demonstrating a reduction in trolley numbers of 40%, when compared to 2016.

A very high priority is being given by St. Vincent’s Hospital, in conjunction with the Ireland East Hospital Group and the local community health services, to improving on recent ED performance in order to regain progress made over the course of last year.