TD calls for 'no further delay' in options appraisal for new Galway hospital

A call has been made for the speedy completion of the options appraisal for a new public hospital in the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital in the wake of ongoing overcrowding and escalating waiting lists at University Hospital Galway.

Deputy Catherine Connolly, who has been highlighting the need for a new public hospital since she was elected to the Dáil in 2016, said the Merlin Park site is the "right location" for the facility.

"It is the on the right side of town and is set in 150 acres. It makes absolute sense to locate the new hospital there," she said.

"UHG is going from crisis to crisis because of the lack of staff and the inadequacy of the building.

|We keep building piecemeal on both sites [UHG and Merlin park], this has to stop. There are acres of land in Merlin Park without touching the treees."

The Independent TD said the options appraisal for the Model 4 hospital began in July 2018 and she is keen that the document is completed and the findings published.

“I welcome the fact that the options appraisal has been undertaken but I am not sure why it has taken so long. There was a lead-in from 2017. The appraisal finally started in July of last year. I would like to see no further delay and that the appraisal would be done and the results published.

“From the beginning, I wanted a new hospital in Merlin Park as the hospital there is not fit for purpose. Since 2017 onwards, I have been tabling questions re a new hospital. I am a little disappointed that it took so long.”

She stated she would like to find out what the options review is saying regarding the type of hospital which will be located on the Merlin Park site, ie, whether it will be an elective facility.

Replying to a question tabled in the Dáil by Deputy Connolly, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, said he gave the HSE approval to conduct an options appraisal for future acute hospital needs in Galway in May 2017. Following the procurement process, external consultants were appointed to the project in July 2018.

“As part of this project, Saolta University Healthcare Group undertood a planning project to assess the population’s health needs for the hospital’s catchment area in order to inform existing and future service needs to ensure the delivery of safe, high quality, acute, elective, and cancer care for patients across the west/north-west.

“Earlier this year the HSE extended the scope of the appraisal to incorporate interim priority infrastructural requirements. While this prolonged the timeline for delivery of the report, it allowed for a review of the critical areas requiring infrastructure development as well as a review of the requirements for the elective hospital.”

The minister outlined that the HSE said the draft report on the options appraisal is undergoing a final review at present, including a submission of the draft report to the Saolta Board for consideration. An initial briefing on the draft plan was provided by the HSE to his department at the end of September. The cost of the options appraisal process will be available once it is concluded.

Meanwhile Independent Galway West TD Noel Grealish stated that the delay in replacing operating theatres at Merlin Park Hospital has resulted in a “huge spike in the waiting list for orthopaedic treatment” since leaks were discovered in the roofs of the old theatres two years ago.

He raised the issue about local hospital services in the Dáil on Tuesday and described the situation at Merlin Park as “another example of Galway and the West appearing to be the poor relation when it comes to health investment”.

According to Deputy Grealish, the number of people waiting for orthopaedic treatments in Galway had increased by 42 per cent, in contrast to hospitals in the rest of the State where the numbers waiting have fallen.

The Carnmore based TD said €400,000 was “needed immediately” to finish the design and start ground works on a new modular theatre building, while €9 million would be needed next year to complete the project.

He called on An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, to “give a firm commitment” that money will be “allocated and ring-fenced” to complete this “urgent project”. He also called for a commitment to “setting the ball rolling” in relation to establishing a minor injuries unit at Merlin Park Hospital.”

Regarding the rising waiting lists for orthopaedic treatments, the Taoiseach said there had been a “very significant improvement” in waiting times throughout the country, which prompted Deputy Grealish to reply: “Not in Galway though.”

The delay in replacing operating theatres at Merlin Park Hospital has resulted in a “huge spike in the waiting list for orthopaedic treatment” since leaks were discovered in the roofs of the old theatres a full two years ago.

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