Funding for a new state-of-the-art emergency department at University Hospital Galway, which could cost up to €120m, will be included in an HSE mid term capital review due to be published in June or July.
Health Minister Simon Harris gave a firm commitment earlier this week - when he met a five-person delegation from the HSE West’s regional health forum - that finance for the initiative will be included in the review which is due to be published in June or July.
The new building, which is expected to be part of a seven-storey block, will be located adjacent to the current ED and will link up with the existing facility, which has been described by Taoiseach Enda Kenny as “not fit for purpose”. Construction is estimated to begin next year and it will be completed in a three to four year timeframe.
A sum of €100,000 was sanctioned by the Government for the planning and design of the new A&E and it is hoped that this will be completed by early September. The entire project could cost in the region of €65m to €120m depending on the particular proposal - it could be anything from a three to a seven storey building.
Galway county councillor Mary Hoade, who had requested that the Minister meet a delegation from the forum, of which she is a member, said in the wake of Tuesday afternoon’s meeting that it was “very productive” and the Minister was “committed, open and engaging”.
“We met him and his department officials. Deputies Hildegarde Naughton and Sean Kyne also attended the meeting in addition to the delegation which comprised Cllrs Padraig Conneely, Terry O’ Flaherty and myself from Galway and Clare councillor and chairperson of the forum Tom McNamara as well as Mayo councillor Michael Kilcoyne.
“We could be looking possibly at constructing a seven storey block and building around it. Two storeys would be allocated to the ED and the building could also accommodate the paediatric or maternity unit.”
She pointed out to the Minister that an interim solution was needed for the overcrowding problem at the existing ED.
“The Minister said he would like to see closer linkage with Merlin Park Hospital and he would look at possibly the funding of modular buildings there and of bringing more daycare services to that hospital. While the clinicians have put forward to him an overall proposal for Merlin Park it would take 20 to 30 years to develop it. He is looking at using it as an interim solution.”
The need for additional staffing was highlighted at the meeting with Minister Harris. “Basically, he said that funding was made available nationally to recruit 1,200 nurses and that Galway will get a share of those. We also talked about the new 75 beds at UHG and the fact that only 28 of these beds have been opened - they opened earlier this year. We said that we needed him to commit to open all of these beds and to provide adequate funding for staffing. We also talked about the need to replace ageing diagnostic equipment and he said that will be looked at as well.”
Cllr Hoade said she had been “pushing” for a meeting with the Minister for Health for years and was “very impressed” by the one and a half hour dialogue.
Cllr Padraig Conneely stated the meeting was “very satisfactory” and had a “good outcome”. He said the Minister was “very au fait” with the Galway hospital situation and was “fully committed” to funding the new ED.
The former city mayor said he had spoken earlier to HSE management and they were working on figures of €65 to €120m for the new casualty department.
“They intend to build a seven floor unit and the first two floors will be dedicated to A&E. These two floors will be guaranteed funding and will go ahead as a matter of urgency and then, depending on funding, the other floors, which will be used for different functions, will be opened. There is a plan to move the maternity to the third floor of the new block but the use of these five blocks will depend on funding.
“It is the fit out of these buildings that will cost all the money, not the building of a frame for seven storeys. The state-of-the-art equipment will cost millions.”