An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned that hospital workers should not take holidays during Christmas to ease the winter trolley crisis.
Mr Varadkar said frontline health workers, particularly emergency department staff, should curtail their leave in the first two weeks of the year to prevent increased delays and overcrowding.
He told the Dáil that hospitals were “effectively closed down” during the period between December 22 and January 3 as the closed days either fell on a Saturday, Sunday or Bank Holiday.
Mr Varadkar recommended: “We need to make sure, for the first time ever, that during that period radiology departments and laboratories will be open and working at full whack.
“That consultants will not be on holidays in the first week of the year, particularly those who work in emergency departments, and that nurses will not be on leave in the first two weeks of January.
“We need to make sure that every bed will be open. That is the kind of winter plan we need,” he said.
The Taoiseach’s comments come as records show last month was the worst October on record for hospital overcrowding. Over 570 patients waited on trolleys and chairs for admission to Letterkenny University Hospital in October 2018.
The Irish Medical Organisation has slammed Mr Varadkar’s statement as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘unhelpful’.
IMO President Dr Peadar Gilligan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the issue is down to a lack of capacity.
Dr Gilligan said doctors and nurses should not be blamed for the challenges in the health care system, adding:“it’d be more helpful if we were seeing a strategic plan with regard to that additional capacity.”