SIPTU has asked the government to alleviate the overcrowding problem at University Hospital Kerry in Tralee by transferring patients to Killarney. The trade union’s Branch Organiser for Kerry Hospitals, Donie Doody, says there are unused beds in Killarney and these spaces should be utilised to take pressure off of Kerry’s largest hospital.

Speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Mr Doody said there should be more “coordination” between Kerry’s hospitals.

“At present there are 30 vacant beds in Killarney Community Hospitals. Why are these beds being left vacant when 20 miles away, in University Hospital Kerry, patients are waiting on trolleys for days at a time? It’s a ludicrous situation. Why is it being allowed to happen? Why is there no policy in place to rectify the situation? Why can patients waiting for the fair deal scheme not be transferred to these vacant beds?

“I call on you, Mr Harris, as Minister for Health, to intervene immediately and initiate a policy that would relieve the pressure on beds at UHK and utilise vacant beds available 20 miles away in Killarney.

“The people of Kerry deserve and are entitled to have this situation rectified immediately. The beds are available and urgently need to be utilised.”

The lack of hospital beds in Ireland has been well documented in recent years. 1,600 were lost in the last decade and Ireland’s rate of 2.8 beds per 1,000 people is well below the norm for OECD countries (4.8). On Wednesday, the nationwide figure for people on trolleys waiting for beds was 396, a 23% increase on the same day last year. There are currently 14 people waiting for beds in Tralee.

The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), which collects the figures, says that the problem is caused by a lack of nursing staff and limited bed capacity in hospitals. In University Hospital Limerick, for example, there are over 70 unfilled nursing vacancies.

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said: “These are genuinely startling figures to see in summertime. It’s only July, and our hospitals are already way over capacity. Nurses will be looking to winter with a sense of dread. A decade ago we’d call this a national emergency, but it’s the new normal in our broken health service.

“Capacity simply has to increase. The government must make it a priority to fill nursing vacancies urgently. That won’t happen without the pay rise that nurses have earned. I worry that if pay stays low and conditions worsen, more nurses will be forced out of our health services.”

What do you think? Should Killarney’s vacant hospital beds be used to alleviate the problems at University Hospital Kerry? Let us know by emailing newsdesk@killarneyadvertiser.ie.

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