Cork hospitals are to get nearly 500 additional beds.

More beds will need more nurses says INMO

The announcement of 472 additional hospital beds for Cork must be met with appropriate staffing levels.

That’s according to Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) General Secretary Phil Ní Sheaghdha.

Last week, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed an additional 342 new beds for CUH, 82 for MUH, 24 for Bantry General Hospital, and 24 for Mallow General Hospital.

The additional Cork beds come as part of the new Acute Hospital Inpatient Bed Capacity Expansion Plan which aims to deliver 580 beds in total to the South West healthcare region.

Speaking in response to the announcement, Ms Ní Sheaghdha said that although the INMO welcomes the announcement, delivery is entirely contingent on correct and safe staffing levels.

Speaking after the announcement, she explained: “For every acute medical/surgical bed, it requires a minimum of one additional nurse per bed and higher numbers for high dependency and complex needs and seven additional nurses per bed for intensive care unit beds,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha said.

“To realistically achieve this increase we must significantly increase undergraduate nursing and midwifery places and introduce bespoke retention measures to ensure nurses and midwives stay in the system,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha added.

The Acute Hospital Inpatient Bed Capacity Expansion Plan has been introduced in response to the ongoing Health Service Capacity Review and aims to bring the number of beds in HSE South West from 2.1 per 100,000 people to 2.6.

The development in the South West region forms part of a major national plan which marks the biggest expansion of bed capacity in the health service in several decades, with a total of 3,352 additional acute inpatient beds planned for delivery across three tranches up to 2031.

Ms Ní Sheaghdha continued: “With the announcement it has never been more obvious that the HSE’s recruitment embargo must be immediately lifted for nursing and midwifery grades.

“There is little point in announcing additional beds without a workforce plan in place,” Ms Ní Sheaghdha concluded.

Making the announcement last Wednesday, Minister Donnelly said the investment recognises that Ireland’s growing and ageing population are placing more demands on healthcare services.

The minister said: “I am determined to drive forward with expansion that ensures people have access to the right care in the right place at the right time.

“We must plan carefully for the future by considering the evolving needs of our changing population.”

The health minsiter continued: “The new beds we’re announcing mark a very important step forward in our efforts to improve capacity right across our health service, delivering a better care for the people across the region.”

In 2018, the Department of Health undertook a Health Service Capacity Review which identified significant capacity deficits across the service. Since then, a total of 1,516 new beds have been planned, with 1,126 delivered up to the end of December 2023.