Major 1,150-bed hospital for Galway by 2031

Saolta says new health campus will give the west access to 21st century facilities and accommodation necessary to meet future demands

 Deputy Hildegarde Naughton pictured addressing members of Saolta Hospital Group Management

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton pictured addressing members of Saolta Hospital Group Management

A new 1,150 bed acute hospital is to be developed on the 150-acre Merlin Park site. The facility, which will replace the current University Hospital, will cost in the region of €2 to €3 billion and is expected to be completed by 2031.

The first phase of the ambitious development plan, which will include the new acute facility, will be the construction of a 200 bed regional elective hospital on the Merlin Park site. This is one of the key health projects approved by Government in the Project Ireland 2040 plan published last year and the HSE Capital Plan published in 2019.

This facility aims to significantly improve patient access to elective care by reducing waiting times and cancellations. It will allow the Saolta Group to significantly increase the level of day surgery it provides and reduce the length of stay for patients in line with best international practice.

Separating acute and non-acute services through the development of a purpose-built elective facility will also greatly improve efficiency. In addition, increasing capacity will enable Galway University Hospitals significantly reduce its waiting lists; by segregating GUH’s elective capacity it would ensure that all elective care would be scheduled and not impacted by emergency or acute patients from across the Saolta region.

High volume

Procedures in the new elective hospital will be high volume, low-to-medium complexity surgeries which can be efficiently planned as the procedure time is predictable and dedicated theatres provided. The procedures which will be carried out will be high volume, low-to-medium complexity surgeries which can be efficiently planned as the procedure time is predictable. This will optimise the rates of day surgery in line with best practice. This elective hospital will accommodate elective medical admissions, diagnostics including endoscopy services and ambulatory care. It will provide scheduled operations, for example, hip replacement, ear, nose, and throat or plastic surger and will optimise the rates of day surgery in line with best practice.

The Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs the local public hospitals, outlined details of the development project, the outcome of the Options Appraisal process undertaken to identify the most appropriate way to proceed with the future development of Galway hospital service yesterday (Wednesday ) evening. The findings of the Regional Elective Hospital Scoping study which was conducted were also revealed.

The processes involved an extensive external assessment conducted by KPMG AECOM and Scott Tallon Walker Architects. This included an in-depth analysis of existing infrastructure on both the UHG and Merlin Park sites in addition to a detailed study of current and future demand for both local and specialist health service requirements in the region.

21st century facilities

Saolta said the new health campus will give people in the west and north-west access to 21st century facilities and the accommodation necessary to meet future demand. The group's CEO Tony Canavan said he was personally excited by the proposed developments. “It shows a clear commitment to improving our services. We are fortunate that we have really good staff. When patients come into the hospital it is evident that we have really good doctors and nurses. We need to provide them with better facilities.”

He said the new Model 4 hospital will lead to improvements in the health of more than 800,000 people across the west/north west of Ireland serving patients from Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim as well as Galway, Mayo and Roscommon.

“It will provide treatment options closer to home to the 14,000 patients who travel to Dublin every year and is fundamental to the efficient patient flow and regional access from other Saolta hospitals.”

Dr Pat Nash, the chief clinical direction of the Saolta Group, said the organisation decided to undertake this detailed and complex analysis to ensure the west and northwest region has a Model 4 hospital that meets best practice standards both now and into the future. He said Saolta was committed to delivering the best outcomes for its patients.

“The recommendation to develop a new acute hospital on the Merlin Park site followed a comprehensive analysis of current facilities which determined that the majority of infrastructure across both sites was unacceptable to provide the models of care that will be necessary in the future. Specifically, 64 per cent and 95 per cent of the infrastructure in UHG and MPUH respectively is ‘not satisfactory/unacceptable’ for its current function.

“The Options Appraisal process also included a detailed demand and capacity analysis including an assessment of the current demand for services and the projected future demand to 2031. It concluded that even with significant support from primary care and implementing ambitious efficiency targets, given Galway University Hospitals’ status as the tertiary referral for the region and its status as the regional cancer centre, significant growth is forecast between now and 2031.”

Developing other hospitals

He outlined that the Options Appraisal report highlighted the “critical importance” of continuing to develop capacity across the other hospitals in the Saolta Group. “We will continue to progress a number of critical infrastructure developments across the Group. In Portiuncula University Hospital we have gone to tender for the enabling works to build the new 50 bed ward block and work will begin on site in PUH in early 2020 with an anticipated completion date of 2022.”

Speaking to this newspaper, Mr Canavan said the documents published yesterday recognised the need also for a new emergency department at UHG. “It is a very poor infrastructure, probably the worst in the country. We hope to be in a position to apply for planning permission in February 2020 for the first phase of work. This is part of a whole programme of work which will take up to five or six years. It will include a new maternity and paediatric facility.”

Chris Kane, the general manager of Galway University Hospital added that the Options Appraisal process also identified a number of immediate critical developments required on the UHG site. “The most immediate priority on the UHG site is to progress towards the build of the new ED approved capital project and we are in discussions with the HSE to incorporate a new Women’s and Children’s unit on the upper floors. The options appraisal also recommended development of new pathology laboratory facilities and new cancer facilities.

“The new cancer facilities, including an ambulatory cancer care centre, will allow the hospital to provide new rapid access clinics and replace existing substandard day ward and outpatient facilities many of which were constructed in the 1950s and do not meet standards required to deliver a modern cancer service.These interim priority developments are necessary to address current inadequate facilities and allow us some flexibility in decanting the UHG site over time. They are also critical given that the new acute hospital development would be anticipated to take at least 15 years and they will ensure that the group can provide a safe and quality service to patients in the region in the interim.”

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