From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A top Galway-based surgeon has called for a national isolation hospital to be set up in Merlin Park within 72 hours in a bid to stop the spread of the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Sherif Sultan, President of the International Society of Vascular Surgery, said a dedicated isolation facility is necessary to “prevent chaos” in the healthcare system, and suggested that Merlin Park would be suitable for this purpose.
“The hospital was originally designed to manage TB in the last century. It has unused intensive care beds, a high dependency unit, helipad, CT scan, MRI, a full lab facility, and enough space for 400 beds,” he said.
“Merlin Park must be taken over by the Irish Army to have a speedy, lean management team to set it up in 72 hours, away from the HSE procuracy,” said Mr Sultan.
He explained that patients in isolation are not allowed visitors and the location of the hospital away from people’s homes in other parts of the country is therefore irrelevant.
The consultant vascular surgeon also called for the army to be deployed in a “martial-law-like scenario” to force the State into lockdown to tackle the threat of the coronavirus.
He said that the true scale of the pandemic in Ireland is still unknown because “relatively few” tests have been conducted, and said leadership is required in order to prevent chaos.
“The Irish Government must move to a martial-law-like scenario,” said Mr Sultan. “[It] must shut down public spaces and the ability to [freely] travel.”
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article and more coverage on Covid-19, see this week’s Galway City Tribune. Buy a digital edition of this week’s paper here.
Work to start on Merlin Park ambulance base
Two of the contractors who were unsuccessful in tendering for the contract to build a new ambulance base at Merlin Park Hospital have queried the process with the Health Service Executive (HSE) – just as the successful bidder is due to move onsite in August.
Joe Hoare, HSE West Assistant National Director of Estates, told last week’s HSE West Regional Health Forum that the project has been tendered for, and a contractor has been selected.
“We have a contractor ready to start,” he said, adding that two of the unsuccessful contractors “did have questions” they wanted answered.
These questions, insisted Mr Hoare, would be responded to within days, and the contract will be awarded “within the next two weeks”.
He confirmed in response to queries from City Councillor John Connolly (FF) that the new ambulance base will be on the grounds of Merlin Park, and “construction will start at the end of August on site”.
Cllr Connolly welcomed the clarity in the verbal response from Mr Hoare at the Forum meeting on Zoom, but he was disappointed with the level of detail that was contained in the written response to his queries.
Cllr Connolly said it was good news that “finally there is movement on a new ambulance base”.
“The temporary facilities they’re using currently at UHG are Third World nearly. You would have to wonder how it’s two years since they got planning permission and it hasn’t started. It is good that a contractor has been selected and it will start soon,” said Cllr Connolly.
The need for a new ambulance base has been highlighted in recent years in Galway City Tribune.
In March of this year, ambulance staff lashed the conditions of the existing base which is housed at the old Fever Hospital at UHG. It was not fit-for-purpose, according to staff.
Asked by this newspaper for an update last week on the planned new ambulance base, a spokesperson said: “The National Ambulance Service have engaged with staff regarding concerns about the current accommodation. The National Ambulance Service have been working with colleagues in HSE Estates division as well as colleagues in the hospital group to address these concerns. Issues have been progressed and resolved while others are still being worked upon.
“Management within the National Ambulance Service area continue to work on the issues raised by staff and will continue to engage with staff on this matter. The plan is for a new ambulance base for staff, however this must go through the normal planning and funding channels.”
(Main photo: Inside the current ambulance base in the old Fever Hospital at UHG).
Man arrested over stabbing in Galway City
A 19-year-old man is due to come before the courts in relation to a stabbing incident that occurred in the city earlier this month.
In the incident, a young man suffered a stab wound to his leg at Galway Shopping Centre on the Headford Road, and was subsequently removed to University Hospital Galway for treatment.
It is understood that the man has since been released after being treated for what weren’t regarded as life-threatening injuries.
Gardai, who studied CCTV footage available in the area at the time, had appealed for any witnesses or anyone with information to make contact with them.
The attack is not being treated as a ‘random assault’ by Gardaí – both the victim and assailant may have been known to each other.
The Galway City Tribune has learned that a 19-year-old man has been arrested by Gardaí in relation to the incident and will face charges relating to assault causing harm.
The stabbing occurred on the Tuesday evening of July 21 shortly after 8.30pm – according to Gardaí, there were a number of passersby in the vicinity at the time of the incident.
HSE challenged on cost of Covid hub in Merlin Park Hospital
The value for money of the Covid-19 Community Assessment Hub at Merlin Park has been called into question.
County Councillor Donagh Killilea said it was now time to ‘row back’ on the hub, which has cost €18,000 per week to see an average of seven patients.
Breda Crehan Roche, Chief Officer of Community Healthcare West, confirmed at the latest HSE West Regional Health Forum that the facility was currently not costing anything.
She said that three such hubs were set up in the West at the height of the pandemic; two have been stood down, but Merlin Park was on ‘stand-by’ in case of a winter surge or a second wave of coronavirus.
Cllr Killilea suggested it was not sustainable.
“It’s seen 107 Covid-19 related patients in the four months that it has been operating. That’s 0.9 patients per day, and you’ve 13 staff there at a cost of €18,000 per week. Is this sustainable? We need to row back on it,” he said.
Ms Crehan Roche confirmed that the total number of staff re-allocated to the unit and the number of full-time staffing already there included a GP, a trainee GP, six nurses, two assistant public health nurses, one physio, one admin staff and one cleaner.
“The estimated cost of the operation and capital expenditure of same was €125,000. The cost of catering for the unit since the setup of the Covid services was €2,100,” she said.
(Photo: Staff at the opening of the first Community Assessment Hub in Merlin Park).