Delay in provision of Merlin Park theatres ‘a disaster’, insists councillor

Cllr Padraig Conneely

Cllr Padraig Conneely

A delay in the construction of modular theatres at Merlin Park Hospital has been described as a serious “cock-up” and “a disaster”.

Former mayor and Galway city councillor Padraig Conneely hit out this week at the hold-up in the provision of these purpose build units. He said 6,000 people were waiting for orthopaedic services and these theatres should be a top priority.

He told a meeting of the HSE West’s regional health forum at Merlin Park Hospital on Tuesday that he had been raising this issue for one and a half years and now his “worst fears” had been confirmed. He believed the project was now back to “square one”.

He was responding to a written reply from HSE management to a question he had posed regarding the current status of the proposed buildings.

Joe Hoare, the HSE’s assistant national director of Estates (West ), confirmed that the health authority had recently terminated its letter of intent with the provider on the project. This happened after failing to reach agreement on the terms of the contract despite the “elapse of a significant time period”.

He stated that a revised procurement strategy is now being developed to deliver the project. “It is hoped to make use of the current planning application as part of this revised strategy. Stage 1 of the design process for the proposed new block, including a new ED department at UHG, is nearing completion and it is anticipated that it will be completed within the next few weeks.”

Cllr Conneely accused the HSE of “making a hames” of its planning application. He said it was “contradictory” and that five weeks ago the Galway City Council requested further information on the project from the HSE but, as of Monday of this week, the health authority had not responded. Meanwhile people were waiting for orthopaedic surgery, he added. “It is delay, delay, delay for one and a half years.”

Mr Hoare disagreed with Cllr Conneely’s assertion that the initiative was “back to square one” and said most of the delay was historical. He said there will be a couple of months lost but the decision to terminate the letter of intent with the project’s provider was in its best interest.

Meanwhile Deputy Catherine Connolly has added her voice to the call for speedy action on the modular theatre plans. She said there were 2,000 people waiting for orthopaedic surgery at Merlin Park Hospital.

“This situation was confirmed in a second letter to TDs on March 22nd from a consultant orthopaedic surgeon on behalf of a group of 10 orthopaedic surgeons. The stark contents of these letters are unprecedented,” said Deputy Connolly.

“In the most recent letter the orthopaedic surgeon refers to a catastrophic waiting list of almost 2,000 patients which, he says, has been accumulating since two theatres went out of operation on September 2017. The letter points out that the situation is becoming unbearable for patients who are on the waiting list and who are clinically disimproving as they wait to be admitted for surgery.”

She said the hospital consultant has called on the Minister for Health to become involved in what is becoming a “growing regional crisis”. Deputy Connolly said she has written to the Minister for Health, who is also in receipt of these letters, seeking an urgent meeting.

“I will be again raising the matter during Leaders’ Questions on Thursday 28th March. It is evident that no value is being put on patients’ suffering; indeed, over the last 18 months in response to continuous pressure and questions from me the most confusing array of inconsistent and contradictory responses have been given.

“As far back as 22nd February 2018 Saolta informed me that contract documentation had issued to the successful bidder. On 21st March, 2018 a reply confirmed that the tender process for the modular theatres was now complete and a contract had been awarded. Then on 28th May, 2018 it was confirmed that contract documents had been exchanged and that active engagement with the successful company was in progress and that Saolta was working towards having the modular theatres open in October. Since then the replies have become more difficult to follow or understand and 18 months later we still have no theatres and 2,000 people suffering on a list that the consultant has described as a catastrophic waiting list with serious regional implications.”

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