More than 15,000 people a year are having to wait nine hours or longer at the UHG Emergency Department before being admitted to hospital or discharged, a situation a Galway TD has described as "unacceptable".
Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish, who has raised the issue in the Dáil, has called on An Taoiseach Enda Kenny to open a minor injuries unit at Merlin Park Hospital to relieve the overcrowding at UHG - regardless of the proposed plans to build a new ED at the city hospital.
The Carnmore based TD said that, according to figures provided by the HSE, in the first seven months of this year, only 58 per cent of people attending the Emergency Department were dealt with in the first six hours, a quarter of the total were still waiting after nine hours, while more than 2,000 were there 24 hours and more.
However, he said the most "shameful statistic" is that 50 per cent of patients aged 75 and over were waiting more than nine hours to be either discharged or admitted in Galway - more than 3,300 people. Dep Grealish acknowledged that management and staff at the current Emergency Department were "doing their best to cope with impossible working conditions".
Dep Grealish is calling for a Minor Injuries Unit to be opened at Merlin Park Hospital. He believes it could handle a large proportion of the people currently presenting at the Emergency Department. According to the TD, only one in four people attending the UHG ED are actually admitted to hospital, suggesting that a "huge number of them" could instead be treated in Merlin Park.
In response, An Taoiseach Kenny confirmed that a cost benefit analysis on a new Emergency Department, submitted by the Saolta group, had been accepted by the HSE Estates last month, but failed to outline a time scale for progress on the new ED. Nonetheless, the Taoiseach said the possibilities for Merlin Park Hospital "needed to be looked at for the next period, perhaps to move out some of the service currently in UHG".