University Hospital Galway (UHG ) will face a worsening overcrowding crisis and fall behind other acute facilities unless plans for the development of Merlin Park Hospital are immediately prioritised, a government TD has warned.
It was reported last weekend that Health Minister Simon Harris is likely to seek additional funding this year for as many as 500 extra hospital beds, and will aim to increase capacity in acute hospitals by 2,500 in the next 10 years.
The Department of Health is currently examining which of the country’s main hospitals currently have space to accommodate extra beds in existing buildings or in modular facilities.
Fine Gael TD for Galway West Hildegarde Naughton said that Galway is likely to miss out on the opportunity to increase its bed capacity under this investment plan, unless proposals to develop Merlin Park are implemented.
Deputy Naughton, who is a member of the Oireachtas Committee on the Future of Healthcare, explained that spatial constraints and planning restrictions at UHG mean that the number of beds on its campus cannot be significantly increased.
“If the Department of Health is looking for hospitals that can immediately accommodate extra beds in a bid to tackle the current crisis, UHG will not be in a position to capitalise on that opportunity,” she said.
“Its campus is overdeveloped and there are planning restrictions preventing the addition of beds without providing extra car-parking facilities, which cannot be provided due to a lack of space.
“The solution to this impasse, as I have maintained for some time, is the development of inpatient facilities – and, ultimately, a new hospital – at Merlin Park,” said Deputy Naughton.
“Plans are being advanced in this regard but these proposals for the rollout of additional hospital beds in the immediate term gives the matter a new urgency. Unless we can now agree on a vision for the future use of Merlin Park, Galway is going to miss out and the overcrowding crisis here will get worse.”
Deputy Naughton said that Merlin Park would provide the Department of Health with an ideal location at which to invest in extra inpatient beds.
“It is untenable that we may now be approaching a situation whereby precious resources could be made available to significantly increase bed capacity at our overcrowded hospital, but we would not be in a position to avail of that opportunity,” she said.
“It underlines the utterly compelling argument for the concentration of resources on the development of Merlin Park, rather than misspending money on short-sighted stopgap measures at the UHG campus,” added the Galway West TD.