Minister moves hospital to design stage – but stops short of committing cash

Minister for Health Simon Harris

The Health Minister has finally formally approved the design of a new Emergency Department for University Hospital Galway – but still stopped short of committing money to actually build it.

Simon Harris also did not give the green light to proposals for a new hospital at a greenfield city site, although he did suggest there was scope for Merlin Park to be better utilised.

Minister Harris, during his Monday lunchtime visit to UHG, again repeated the well-worn line that the Emergency Department is “not fit for purpose”; a phrase An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny has used previously.

And he agreed to fund the design of a new ED, which he said should be completed by hospital management in time for the Government’s capital plan review this June or July.

Minister Harris expressed a “hope” that money would be forthcoming in that capital review, but no definitive funding commitment for the construction stage of a new ED (formerly A&E) for UHG was given.

Local Fine Gael TDs welcomed the announcement as a sign he is committed to solving the ED crux but the Opposition pounced claiming Minister Harris had just reheated a previous statement.

“The announcement that there is money for the design stage of the new A&E is nothing new,” said Independent Galway West TD, Catherine Connolly.

“He confirmed this to me in the Dáil many weeks ago. So, the Minister came to Galway to reiterate what we already knew and to allow photo opportunities for himself and government TDs,” she said.

Fianna Fáil Galway West TD, Éamon Ó Cuív was equally unimpressed.

The former Government minister said talk of a new hospital, and prolonging the process for a new ED, was like “telling the kids they can have sweets tomorrow”.

Deputy Ó Cuív said there was a series of measures Minister Harris could announce immediately to help alleviate pressure at UHG, including direct hospital admissions of patients who don’t have to go through ED; and the establishment of fully resourced minor injury clinics with X-ray machines to divert patients away from ED.

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.