Leo vows to deliver on ED and city ring road

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar speaking to the media at NUI Galway. With him are Minister with responsibility for Natural Resources, Community Affairs and Digital Development Sean Kyne, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton, and, Eoghan Murphy, Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, and Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Minister of State for Higher Education. They were at the college as part of a series of regional events to discuss Project Ireland 2040.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has vowed to personally intervene if delays occur in the rolling out of the new emergency department and the planned ring road for the city, his two top priority projects for the city.

Ahead of the Taoiseach’s visit to University Hospital Galway (UHG), where he officially launched the new 75-bedded unit with all single ensuite rooms, overcrowding hit an all-time high with 58 patients languishing on trolleys.

But that dramatically dropped to 26 on Thursday morning, hours before his arrival, with some patients complaining they had been moved out of sight across the wards for a few hours only to be returned once the entourage left.

Six patients were accommodated overnight in the medical assessment unit – which is designed to alleviate pressure on the emergency department by speeding up diagnoses and was never intended as an overspill area – while eight beds in St Finbar’s Ward which had been closed for weeks was reopened.

The numbers on trolleys had shot up to 36 by Friday, dropping to 29 on Monday and further to 27 by Tuesday.

Addressing the event at UHG’s nurses’ home, Taoiseach Varadkar acknowledged the pressures facing staff and said he would do all he could to make sure a new emergency department is delivered as quickly as possible.

He stated he was taking a particular interest in the project, which would go for planning permission this August.

Other projects which he was prioritizing in the investment plan until 2040 were the ring road and a €200m upgrade for the city buses, which he described as ‘luas on wheels’, featuring dedicated and completely segregated bus corridors to improve journey times.

He also earmarked a new elective hospital, dedicated to day surgery and scans, as a possible solution to the chronic overcrowding and lengthy waiting lists for patients in the west.

Anne Burke, spokesperson for the Irish Nurses and Midwives’ Organisation (INMO), last week pointed out that reconfiguration work was already underway to squeeze in trolleys on the corridors of the newly built unit.

“So, it’s more of the same. We have two trolleys permanently parked in each ward – yet the wards are absolutely decimated of staff – most need a minimum increase of between five and ten nurses on each ward,” the former nurse explained.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.