Oireachtas committee hears of need for new acute hospital

The need for a new acute hospital in Galway can no longer be ignored given comments by the Saolta Hospital Group at this week’s Special Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, Dep Hildegarde Naughton has said.

The Oireachtas committee heard from both the CEO of the Saolta Hospital Group, Maurice Power, and the group’s clinical director, Dr Pat Nash, yesterday.

“If ever there was any doubt that University Hospital Galway is unfit to serve as the major acute hospital in the west of Ireland, today’s committee hearing eradicated it,” Dep Naughton said after the hearing.

During his remarks to the committee, Mr Power said UHG’s emergency department was “not fit for purpose” and “too small and outdated”. Mr Power also stressed the need for a long-term solution to acute hospital services in the region, and that future development plans “must include a new hospital on a site such as Merlin Park”.

Dr Nash, in response to a question from Dep Naughton, indicated that there was overwhelming support among clinicians at UHG for the construction of a new acute hospital on the Merlin Park campus. The senior clinicians are also on record as having lodged a submission with the committee to that effect.

Dr Nash said that UHG has come under unsustainable pressure since it was designated a centre of excellence for the west/northwest counties of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Sligo, Leitrim, and Donegal.

With a population in excess of 800,000, UHG is now the only model 4 hospital in the region and is required to provide tertiary level care in most specialities.

Dr Nash confirmed that this major unplanned change in patient flow had evolved in a short period of time without advance demand or capacity planning, resulting in major capacity pressures on UHG. He also confirmed that the removal of beds from Merlin Park Hospital had increased the pressure on UHG’s ability to cope with demand.

Given the nature of the present site, he indicated that there was now an urgent need to plan for the future of hospital services in the west.

“This can only be done by creating a new acute hospital that is planned to efficiently and effectively manage the complex tertiary acute and elective care for the population of the west,” Dep Naughton said.

It emerged at the committee that UHG has a shorter length of stay than other model 4 hospitals around the country. Deputy Naughton commended the expertise of nurses and doctors to achieve this positive result in such difficult circumstances. “It only further proves that the difficulties in UHG are mainly bed capacity related,” she added.

“In my view this is a very significant day for the future of health care in the west of Ireland. Both the CEO and the clinical director of the west’s major hospital group have told the Oireachtas that UHG is beyond redemption and a new acute hospital is required, preferably on the Merlin Park site.

“This is no longer an issue that can be ignored by the HSE at a national level and they must immediately commence planning for a new state of the art acute hospital in Galway.”

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