One of the most outspoken critics of the local health service has been re-elected unopposed as the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum.
Fine Gael city councillor Padraig Conneely, who consistently hits the headlines over his comments about the University Hospital Galway’s A&E department and hospital waiting lists, was the only nomination for the one year position. He was selected at a meeting of the forum held at Merlin Park Hospital on Tuesday.
The 40 member forum which covers nine counties - Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, Mayo, Galway, Roscommon, Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary - comprises 18 Fine Gael councillors, 10 Fianna Fail, five Labour, six Independents and one Green. It replaced the Western Health Board and is an advisory body to the HSE.
Cllr Conneely told this newspaper he was approached by a number of forum members and asked to consider holding the position for a second term.
“I was selected for the chair last year and it is usually a one year position. A number of members rang me during the week asking what was the position for this term. A few asked me to go for a second term. I said I’d doubt if I’d get it. They said I ran the meetings fairly efficiently and was vocal on major issues. As Galway seems to be the hub - UHG is the biggest acute hospital in the area - they were keen to have someone from here. I said, ‘If you want me, I’ll go [for it]’. They selected me and Fianna Fail or Labour didn’t put anyone up against me. I had the numbers.”
The former mayor says his priorities are keeping hospital beds open, reducing overcrowding at UHG’s emergency department and highlighting the plight of the sick and vulnerable.
“One hundred and fourteen beds have been closed here and there are more closures planned. My priority is to keep beds open. The reason people are in A&E on trolleys is because there are no beds. The discharge system does not seem to be working. I’ve seen patients with their bags packed, waiting to be signed off by their consultants. If they don’t see them they have to stay another day.
“I still believe as a body that the HSE seems to be lacking in something, in what it’s supposed to do. I feel they are falling down in terms of patient care, particularly in relation to public patients. It is up to me and others to keep bringing the HSE executives back to basics, back to the patient care. I feel the HSE wants to run the health service like an industry but it doesn’t work like that when you are dealing with sick people.”
The forum chairperson commended John Hennessy, the HSE West’s regional director of operations, for this week apologising to a 94-year-old Clifden great-grandmother who had to spend two nights on a trolley at UHG’s emergency department.
Cllr Conneely said it was nice to see the human face of the HSE.