Dáil Éireann - Volume 527 - 07 December, 2000

Written Answers. - Hospital Services.

37. Mr. Allen asked the Minister for Health and Children the plans he has to expand step down facilities in view of the pressure on acute hospitals. [28778/00]

Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children (Dr. Moffatt): A major factor affecting the ability of hospitals to provide beds for patients over the winter period is the high number of acute beds which are inappropriately occupied by patients who have completed the acute phase of their illness. Many of these patients are in the older age category and require a further level of care in a more appropriate environment. Part of the initiative which I recently announced aimed at alleviating critical service pressures in acute hospitals, provides for the contracting of at least 500 additional private nursing home places by the Eastern Regional Health Authority and the health boards. The ERHA and the health boards are in the process of contracting these beds at present. I am satisfied that this part of the initiative will have a significant impact on the problem of inappropriate use of acute hospital beds with the immediate provision of additional bed capacity in a more appropriate setting.