ALMOST 100 Offaly health services beds have been closed. 86 beds closed have been closed at the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore while 12 beds have been closed at Ofalia House in Edenderry.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), following a nationwide survey, have identified 1,672 beds closed, despite the fact that emergency departments are severely overcrowded at this time.
The survey confirms that beds have been closed, primarily due to budget cutbacks and staffing shortages, in all regions, despite the pressure on the health system overall. The INMO now renews it's call for these closed beds to be reopened immediately to facilitate dealing with the current overcrowding crisis.
INMO General Secretary Liam Doran said:"These closed beds, which are both acute and continuing care beds, must be reopened to ease the current crisis and to give patients back their dignity. In addition, nursing and other support staff must be employed so that the care required for these patients can be provided in a safe and caring environment.
"With this available resource there is no excuse for the current indignity being suffered by patients and the excessive workloads, in a most unsuitable environment, being carried by frontline staff."
Tullamore Cllr Brendan Killeavy said this situation can not be allowed to continue any longer. "The new state of the art hospital cost the tax payer over €100 million, it's sad to think that we now have less inpatient beds available for public use in the new hospital than there was in the old hospital.
"With this in mind I am calling on hospital management to open up all the beds in the new hospital and to urgently open up a new Medical Assessment Unit in the hospital," said Cllr Killeavy.
He said a Medical Assessment Unit would ease the pressure on the A&E department, improve patient outcomes and improve the working environment for staff .
"Medical Assessment Units have been very successful in other hospitals and the new hospital in Tullamore has the space and facilities to accommodate a new unit at little or no extra cost. It's time for some strategic thinking and they should use the Croke Park Agreement to redeploy the appropriate staff to ensure all the service users receive a high class service at the hospital," he concluded.
In response to the bed closures the HSE said "As a consequence of on-going staff recruitment / replacement issues it has been found necessary, in the interest of patient care to temporarily suspend respite services at Ofalia House, Edenderry, Co. Offaly as and from January 1st. This decision has been reached in order to ensure that the highest standard of care will continue to be available to residents in Ofalia House.
"Following from this decision clients who normally avail of respite services at Ofalia House will be offered respite at Bethany House, Tyrrellspass, County Westmeath. This service will be arranged for the clients/relatives following the normal respite request procedure."
Last week saw large numbers on trolleys at the Midlands Regional Hospital at Tullamore. On Wednesday and Friday there were 13 people on trolleys and eight on Monday and Tuesday according to INMO Trolleywatch figures.
Meanwhile the HSE has also said an increase in Swine Flu is adding to Emergency Department overcrowding."Emergency Departments around the country continued to experience a surge in activity this week.
"This is due to a number of contributing factors including the increase in the number of patients presenting with Swine flu, flu like illnesses and other seasonal illnesses common at this time of year. "