Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, has been informed by the Minister for Health that the ground works at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, in advance of construction of the new 50 bed ward block, will take nine months to complete with an expected finish date of May 25 2021.
“The enabling works are required in advance of construction of the new 50 bed ward block, a commitment which I secured from Government in Project Ireland 2040 and which was delivered upon by Minister Harris in October.
“While there is no doubt that COVID-19 has been a factor with this delay, so too has the failure of officials to follow through in a timely manner on the commitments I secured for the delivery of this project by 2021 from Minister Simon Harris.
“It is now expected that construction of the new 50 bed ward block will be delayed until the middle of 2021, which is disappointing. However, I’m determined to ensure this Government follows through on the commitments I secured during the term of the last Government.
“The reality of COVID-19 is that s a new ward block is now more urgently required than ever to address the chaotic situation that many patients, and staff, have faced in the past in our local A&E Department. This new 50 bed ward block at Portiuncula will increase bed usage and can also provide additional beds in the hospital system, I believe that this project should be prioritised.
“The intention is to now seek contractors for the construction of the 50-bed ward block by the end of this year and it is imperative that the timeline does not slip any further.
“On a positive note the Radiology Flouroscopy room refurbishment and equipment replacement is expected to be completed in February next which will significantly improve the quality of diagnosis in the hospital and assist the medical teams in treating patients,” Deputy Naughten asserted.
HSE admits further delays in delivery of flu vaccine
Meanwhile, reports that the HSE will only have two thirds of last year’s flu vaccine order by mid-October raise serious concerns about the availability of the vital flu vaccine for vulnerable groups this winter, Deputy Naughten has stated.
“While we all expected increased demand for the vaccine on a global scale, it is only now the HSE has admitted that not only will there be a delay but only part of the order needed for this winter will be available from the middle of October,” Deputy Naughten remarked.
It is reported that a HSE spokesperson has said that by mid-October GPs and pharmacies “should have” just two-thirds of the amount of vaccine it used last year.
“This is short of what was actually delivered last year and well short of what it is expected will be needed to meet this year’s demand.
“If people in vulnerable groups get the flu, they are more likely to also get Covid-19 which, as a result, will be far more severe and place a huge additional burden on our health service.
“On to top of that the only way our health service can manage a surge in Covid-19 infection this winter is if we can rule out the possibility that the patient has flu, as the symptoms are so similar. This can only be achieved by a population-wide vaccination programme against the flu virus and this now under serious jeopardy as a result of these significant delays.
“We were lucky that when Covid-19 struck in March we were almost out of the flu season, but that will not be the case as we face another surge in coronavirus infection this autumn.
“After such heroic efforts by every citizen in the State to stop the spread of the virus earlier this year we cannot allow a further wave of infection to cause chaos in our hospitals this winter under any circumstances,” Deputy Naughten. concluded.