Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten, has received confirmation that the new out-patient department at Portiuncula hospital will open on March 12, which will provide the opportunity to replace beds lost due to Covid-19 reconfiguration.
He has also been informed that the tender for the construction of the new 50 bed ward block at Portiuncula University Hospital in Ballinasloe will be advertised before the end of the first quarter of 2021 with construction expected to begin this summer.
The issue was raised in the Dáil by Deputy Naughten where it was confirmed that construction will proceed in the summer, subject to the availability of funding.
Deputy Naughten also raised the ongoing issue with capacity at Portiuncula Hospital due to the fact it has lost 10% of its acute hospital capacity due to Covid-19 configuration.
“The hospital was very proactive and put forward two very specific proposals. The first was to develop two separate modular buildings: one for an accident and emergency department that could segregate Covid and non-Covid patients and the second modular building was to take the outpatient department out of the acute hospital and convert the old outpatient department into 13 single rooms. At present Portiuncula Hospital, which is one of the biggest acute hospitals servicing the Midlands while trying to manage an infectious disease, has only 13 single rooms.
“It is totally unacceptable that the hospital is operating at 10 percent less capacity today, with just 13 single rooms, which leaves it in an impossible position to manage the pandemic and the challenges that currently exist.
“I have been pursuing the 50 bed ward block completion since I secured the commitment on its construction in 2019 and I’m delighted to see that this project is now being expedited,” Deputy Naughten added.
Prioritising carers cannot be ignored
Meanwhile, Deputy Naughten has welcomed plans to prioritise people with serious medical conditions for vaccination but asked that family carers be included in this prioritised category because of the knock on impact on our health service should they get sick.
“I believe that it was a mistake not to initially designate full-time family carers in the vulnerable category because if carers get sick then many older people, or those with a disability, will be forced into hospital or long-term care, putting further pressure on our over-stretched health system.
“In the UK family carers have been prioritised as being a group at higher risk because ‘those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill, should also be offered vaccination alongside these groups’.
“Across the EU, US, UK and many other countries vaccinating family carers is seen as international best practice, yet family carers are still being ignored here in Ireland.
“If vulnerable people are being prioritised based on medical evidence, surely that same advice would also apply to vulnerable children? And while I accept that these children cannot be vaccinated themselves because we have yet to receive vaccine trial evidence on children, but that would make it even more important to vaccinate those family carers who come in daily contact with them in order to minimise the risk of picking up Covid-19.
“Providing care at home during the Covid pandemic has been incredibly difficult for family carers with many forced to care single-handed without the support of family, home care, day services or respite.
“In addition, the risk of contracting the Covid virus has been a constant worry, not just because of the risk of exposing the person that they are caring for to the deadly virus but the worry of who will actually care for the vulnerable person if the carer themselves become ill,” Deputy Naughten concluded.
Local Independent Deputy, Denis Naughten