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Long wait lies ahead for elective hospital plans in Galway

Galway faces at least another five-year wait before a new elective hospital is delivered at Merlin Park.

Detailed project briefs and a business case for long-promised facility, which is due to transfer elective care from University Hospital Galway to Merlin Park, are currently being drawn up.

A meeting of Regional Health Forum West heard that the HSE aimed to have those steps completed by the end of this year before they go to the Department of Health for approval under the public spending code.

In response to a question from City Councillor Declan McDonnell (Ind), the HSE said the completion of these documents would provide a clearer timeline, but 2028 was their current aspiration for a completion date.

“The ambition at this stage, subject to necessary planning approval processes, is for Galway Elective Hospital to, in a sustainable manner, reach full operational capacity by the end of 2028, i.e. it is fully built, fitted out and operational,” stated the reply.

“The desire is for the elective hospital to achieve initial operational capacity, with limited capacity to provide some procedures, as soon as possible, with an ambition to open it to receive patients in 2027.”

Cllr McDonnell said he could not understand why it was taking so long to progress a project that was vital to the people of not only Galway but the wider region.

“We also haven’t received a design map of the site – is the site identified or will we have the same problems we had with the Galway Hospice site,” asked Cllr McDonnell, referring to An Bord Pleanála’s rejection of plans for a hospice on the EU protected meadows in Merlin Woods.

Assistant National Director of HSE Capital and Estates, Joe Hoare, confirmed that the site identified was within the existing “hospital core” in Merlin Park.

“As it is in the core areas, it should be achievable and should work . . . we are quite confident it is a site that can deliver a hospital and work with all hospital requirements,” he said.

Cllr McDonnell said there were currently plans, at various stages of development, for a new Emergency Department and Mother and Child Block at University Hospital Galway, and questioned if it would be more efficient to merge all plans for healthcare in Galway for swifter delivery.

CEO of Saolta Hospitals Group, Tony Canavan, said as well as the new ED and Mother and Child Block, plans were advancing for the replacement of a lab at UHG and a new cancer unit.

“That is what is required in order to address the problems we have with access to the Emergency Department and waiting lists,” he said.

Mr Hoare said it did not make sense to tie the five projects together as some were at a more advanced stage.

“We can’t hold up a project until the next one gets approval. There are a number of these projects that have been planned for several years and we need to push them on,” he said.

Projects costing more than €200 million had to be approved under the Departmental Spending Code which took time, but was a necessary process that had to be gone through.

“The CEO of the HSE was down recently and there is a lot of effort in terms of Saolta hospital management, and a new impetus to push projects on,” said Mr Hoare.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune:

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