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How many beds? Capacity implications of hospital care demand projections in the Irish hospital system, 2015‐2030

Conor Keegan (), Aoife Brick, Brendan Walsh (), Adele Bergin (), James Eighan and Maev‐Ann Wren

International Journal of Health Planning and Management, 2019, vol. 34, issue 1, e569-e582

Abstract: Existing Irish hospital bed capacity is low by international standards while Ireland also reports the highest inpatient bed occupancy rate across OECD countries. Moreover, strong projected population growth and ageing is expected to increase demand for hospital care substantially by 2030. Reform proposals have suggested that increased investment and access to nonacute care may mitigate some increased demand for hospital care over the next number of years, and it is in this context that the Irish government has committed to increase the supply of public hospital beds by 2600 by 2027. Incorporating assumptions on the rebalancing of care to nonhospital settings, this paper analyses the capacity implications of projected demand for hospital care in Ireland to 2030. This analysis employs the HIPPOCRATES macrosimulation projection model of health care demand and expenditure developed in the ESRI to project public and private hospital bed capacity requirements in Ireland to 2030. We examine 6 alternative projection scenarios that vary assumptions related to population growth and ageing, healthy ageing, unmet demand, hospital occupancy, hospital length of stay, and avoidable hospitalisations. We project an increased need for between 4000 and 6300 beds across public and private hospitals (an increase of between 26.1% and 41.1%), of which 3200 to 5600 will be required in public hospitals. These findings suggest that government plans to increase public hospital capacity over the 10 years to 2027 by 2600 may not be sufficient to meet demand requirements to 2030, even when models of care changes are accounted for.

Date: 2019
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