Replacing the 700 bed University Hospital Galway is the top priority of a local politician who has been appointed to a Government health committee.
Fine Gael deputy Hildegarde Naughton says there should be a plan to replace the existing regional hospital, which is a tertiary referral centre for the west, within the next 10 years.
The Oranmore former primary teacher says this goal will be top of her list on the special committee which has been tasked with mapping out the future of the health service in the next 10 years.
The Dáil was this week informed that Deputy Naughton has been appointed to this cross party organisation which will attempt to achieve consensus and report to the Ceann Comhairle within six months.
Her other priorities for the health service include more reliance on primary care which would allow more people to be treated in their communities and remain in their homes for longer.
Further areas of concern she has highlighted are the shortage of hospital consultants, what she claims is poor management in the health service itself, issues surrounding continually vacant posts, the cost of drugs and the lack of national programmes in a variety of medical specialities.
Deputy Naughton said she has long been on record as saying that the health policy in this country consists of a series of firefighting exercises “rather than a broad vision of where we should be and how to get there”.
“This committee will bring focus to the future of the health service, where we want to be, how to get there and what funding will be required. No matter what happens in politics over the next period it is absolutely vital that patients and front line staff have a road map detailing where we are headed. “My sole purpose in serving on this committee is to ensure that we put a plan in place to provide affordable and accessible healthcare for everyone.
“One of my priorities on this committee will be to ensure that in the case of University Hospital Galway, there should be a plan to replace the existing structure on Newcastle Road, within the next 10 years. It is plain as a pikestaff that it is no longer suitable, a view endorsed by the Saolta Hospital Group. The same situation pertains in other areas of the country. Such issues will be priority for me on this special committee.”
There are a number of other areas in the health service which need to be developed, she said. “For example, there should be far more reliance on primary care which would keep people in their homes and out of hospital. Other areas include the lack of consultants, poor management in the health service itself, issues surrounding continually vacant posts, the cost of drugs and the lack of national programmes in a variety of medical specialities.
“While the list of issues is long, we have a once in a lifetime chance to get it right. I bring no fixed ideology to this debate. I am willing to endorse any policy that will ensure the best possible health service for all our people. At the end of this process I want to see a vision for a health service that we all can be proud of.”