Mary Lou McDonald accused the Government of being “a day late and a dollar short” on hospital capacity, amid growing pressure on the Irish health system.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Tuesday defended the efforts of the Governments to bolster the country’s intensive care beds, promising at least 340 by the end of next year.
Concerns have grown in recent days about the impact a rising number of Covid-19 patients in hospital is having on the Irish health service, as hospitals switch to surge capacity and cancel some scheduled surgeries.
The Sinn Féin Leader told the Dáil on Tuesday: “The failure of the Government to prepare for the Covid surge has created enormous pressure.”
She said that the lack of intensive care capacity has been a failure of successive governments.
“This lack of foresight has continued throughout this pandemic,” Ms McDonald said.
“Even in the recent Budget, you tinkered around the edges on ICU capacity.”
Ms McDonald cited a report in the Sunday Independent newspaper that an organ transplant patient at the Mater Hospital in Dublin had had their operation cancelled due to a shortage of intensive care beds.
“There should have been an ICU bed for this patient. There would have been an ICU bed if the Government had planned properly,” she charged Mr Martin.
She called it “very traumatic for all concerned, particularly for the patient and their family”.
Mr Martin said: “I believe that that operation should have gone ahead.”
He said it was a “cause of great regret” the transplant did not go ahead and that an internal investigation is under way.
Mr Martin also defended the strategy of his Government.
“The key issue is not resources now because the Government has provided resources for intensive care beds and for hospital beds and for additional staff.”
“It’s the speed at which we can recruit and provide the entire capacity that an ICU bed requires.”
He said that there will be around 300 intensive care beds at the end of the year.
“We haven’t had prolonged restrictions. We have re-opened the economy and we have re-opened society.”
“This is a balance that we have to strike. Thousands of people have come back to work and that is good for those people.”
Labour TD Duncan Smith accused the Government of overseeing a health system that was breaking down.
He also pointed to the long and ongoing waits for PCR testing.
“If you logged on right now, lunchtime in this country, you will not be able to get a test or you will have to stay up late until 12 o’clock at night refreshing screens to try and get a test.”
“It is just not good enough. People are really really upset out there and they’re expecting further restrictions coming down the line.”
“You’re going to have to make long-term plans and stop operating as if this wave is going to be our last,” he told Mr Martin.
“I think we need to be fair and balanced and have a sense of perspective. Having a capacity of 207,000 is not scrambling around,” Mr Martin responded.
He said that Ireland compares “very well” with other countries when it comes to PCR testing capacity.