Leo feels the heat over hospital

The Emergency Department at UHG.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will come under pressure to expedite plans for a new Emergency Department when he visits University Hospital Galway (UHG) next week.

Fine Gael sources have confirmed the former Minister for Health is due to officially open a new ward at the city hospital next Thursday, and hopes are high among staff that he will make an announcement about the new ED.

Nurses will also push Mr Varadkar to lift the hiring moratorium and allow the recruitment of additional frontline staff at UHG.

His predecessor, Enda Kenny described UHG’s ED as “not fit for purpose”; and Health Minister Simon Harris has approved the design stage for the new unit but staff are frustrated with the lack of progress.

News of his impending visit comes as official figures this week confirmed UHG is one of the worst hospitals for overcrowding in the country.

UHG has 708 beds, and according to Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), during March, there were some 709 on trolleys waiting for a bed – the equivalent of a full hospital on trolleys.

Anne Burke, INMO Industrial Relations Officer for the hospital said: “The nurse staffing levels on the wards in GUH (Merlin Park and UHG) have been decimated since the moratorium and have not recovered. INMO in Galway are calling on management to address recruitment that will see the complement of nursing staff on our wards increased to reflect the complexity of patient care and the increased activity levels.”

In advance of Mr Varadkar’s visit, Galway West Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton issued a statement claiming Galway’s new public hospital will provide an additional 200 beds and boost in-patient capacity at GUH by around 30 percent.

The decision to build a new elective hospital in Galway was recently revealed in the Government’s capital plan. It is understood that the facility will be developed on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital.

Plans are at an early stage, but Deputy Naughton has confirmed that the new hospital contains a total of 200 new beds, which will represent an increase of 30 percent on the current in-patient capacity of UHG and Merlin Park.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.