Two Government ministers have publicly backed plans for the development of a new elective hospital in Galway, calling for the project to be prioritised and completed “as quickly as possible”.
Minister for Education Joe McHugh and Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring both voiced their support for the campaign for the new hospital, which has been led by local Fine Gael TD Hildegarde Naughton. She first touted the construction of a new hospital in Merlin Park in 2016.
The intervention is unusual in that it involves major regional investment in a project located outside both ministers’ constituencies. However, almost 9,500 patients from Mayo and Donegal are on waiting lists for elective procedures.
Minister McHugh said the construction of a new elective hospital in Galway would be "positive for the entire region", while Minister Ring described the planned hospital as “critical for healthcare in the west of Ireland”. The ministers said they would be raising the issue with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris.
The proposal to build a new hospital was included in the Government’s capital plan last year. It also featured as a national priority in the recent €2 billion HSE spending plan. The Galway hospital is one of three elective hospitals in line to be built in the State.
Dep Naughton welcomed the support of ministers Ring and McHugh, and said it would add momentum to the project. “For far too long, money was spent on our regional health service in a way that was strategically irrational,” she said. “It was focused solely on the UHG site, where no additional capacity could be provided due to spatial and planning restrictions. In recent years, we saw a bed block built that provided no extra beds, and a car park built that provided no extra parking spaces."
The Galway West TD said she was "pleased" the Government had seen the "logic and urgency" of developing hospital services in Merlin Park. "The development of an elective hospital will not only create new beds there," she said, "but will boost inpatient capacity by up to 30 per cent in UHG."