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Taoiseach concedes new ED at University Hospital Galway is “long overdue”


From this week's Galway City Tribune

From this week's Galway City Tribune

Taoiseach concedes new ED at University Hospital Galway is “long overdue”

The Taoiseach has described the planned new Emergency Department at University Hospital Galway as “long overdue”.

Speaking in the Seanad, Leo Varadkar said he would be taking the matter up with Bernard Gloster, the new Chief Executive Officer of the HSE.

Mr Varakar said the Galway-based senator, Seán Kyne, had reminded him of “the long overdue project that is needed in Galway, which is the Emergency Department, as well as paediatric and maternity”.

Senator Kyne told the Taoiseach that it has been five years since the Saolta University Healthcare Group – which operates UHG and Merlin Park – “promised” that planning permission would be sought for the new development.

He said the CEO of the HSE admitted that capital infrastructure in Galway is “years behind the rest of the country”.

Mr Varadkar said he would raise the matter with Bernard Gloster and referring to Senator Kyne said: “He probably does not believe it but I am as dissatisfied as he is that progress on that particular project is so slow.” “It is not just for Galway; it is the regional hospital and the regional centre for all the west and it is not what it should be,” the Taoiseach said.

The new building is expected to cost at least €500 million, according to the Department of Health.

In 2015, the then Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, described the hospital’s Emergency Dept as “not fit for purpose”.

Last October, a Temporary Emergency Dept opened, but as the Galway City Tribune reported in March there is inadequate space for the 70,000 attendances each year.

This included “a lack of facilities for isolation, mental health, gynaecology, limited paediatric ED accommodation with significant resuscitation capacity to meet emergencies and trauma”, according to internal HSE documentation seen by this newspaper.

At a Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health hearing last week, Mr Gloster said: “I have said previously that in terms of overall capital development, there is little doubt but that Galway is way behind the curve. The serious challenge in Galway for many years was there was much debate about whether to stay on the UHG site or go to the Merlin Park site and so on. That is now much more settled.

“The elective site for Galway is already identified – Merlin Park. Just in the past few weeks, the Secretary General agreed that rather than take each individual component capital requirement for Galway – be it a lab, a ward block or the emergency department – we would get a full project team with good, strong expert advice from outside as well as inside to the Saolta group and we would rapidly ensure the overall capital plan for Galway is set out in terms of all the requirements.

“From that, we would prioritise which part would come first. That is the best approach. Having been there and seeing it, you could not but argue it is in pretty bad shape in respect of capital infrastructure. It will get and is getting a lot of serious attention. I expect that to significantly ramp up in the next couple of weeks,” he told the committee meeting.

Senator Kyne said the debate had been going on for years, and he was present with former Health Minister Simon Harris in September 2018 when Saolta said the planning application would be lodged by Christmas.

Mr Gloster replied: “I believe the answer to the question the Senator is looking for will come much faster if it is in the context of an overall plan where we know what the total requirement is and where Government can indicate what it is able to approve, support and fund, and then we schedule out from that. The Emergency Department is obvious.

“There is no doubt that the emergency department requires serious and urgent attention. I would be very surprised if, in an overall campus prioritisation, it is not right up near the top.

“However, I want to allow Saolta to do this with expert help and advice and I want to see what the comprehensive site plan looks like. We will then go after it. The new radiation oncology unit is already built there. Nobody is disputing that Galway needs serious attention,” said Mr Gloster.

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