More than one third of patients currently treated at University Hospital Galway could be cared for instead at Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals, according to the HSE.
This would help ease the pressure on the west’s overburdened flagship facility UHG, which has come under severe criticism over the years for the delays and overcrowding at its emergency department.
Under new HSE plans to overhaul healthcare services in Galway and Roscommon - unveiled at a cross party meeting at Leinster House recently which was arranged by Fianna Fáil TD Frank Fahey - services will be spread out across UHG, Merlin Park, Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals. Patients requiring routine procedures, minor treatment and primary healthcare will attend these two facilities.
This system will give patients more options to access the care they need without delay.
Fianna Fail TD Noel Treacy says the new plan will secure the future of the 197 bed Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe.
“I have fought to safeguard the future of the hospital and I have been in contact with the HSE on numerous occasions about this issue. This announcement proves that not only is Portiuncula safe it will receive increased investment to help absorb some of the workload from UHG.
“A number of local people had contacted me with concerns about the future of the hospital and I have always insisted that it will remain an integral part of our health services here.
“The aim is to radically improve the speed and comfort of healthcare provision for all patients. To this end, the HSE has now confirmed that it plans to pump extra resources into Portiuncula Hospital. Under the reconfiguration targets, patients can be seen, treated and discharged within six hours of leaving their home.”
He says local and national HSE management have confirmed that the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital is as important to the region as the facility at UHG.
“They have also told me that there never was, nor will there be, any threat to Portiuncula Hospital. This clearly confirms my own consistent statements on the issue over many years.”
The new plan envisages that UHG will continue to be the centre for acute and complex surgeries as well as providing a world class cancer care service, according to Deputy Fahey.
“Some 35 per cent of patients at the regional hospital will be treated at other hospitals in the region. More routine procedures, minor treatment and primary healthcare will be moved to Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals which will both be granted extra resources and will be an integral part of healthcare in this region. Merlin Park University Hospital will provide a day care service and elective surgeries.
”Overall, patient numbers at UHG will be cut by a third, putting an end to overcrowding and the unsafe situation of patients waiting on trolleys. All patients will have immediate access to a top class, efficient and safe service at the appropriate hospital. The plan envisages that patients receiving routine care will be seen, treated and discharged within six hours of presenting to hospital.”
The meeting was told that the future of all hospitals in this region is secure. Despite cutbacks in the health service next year there will be a better spread of resources to avoid a repeat of the budget overrun experienced at UHG this year, says Deputy Fahey.
“The HSE also promised increased investment and support to implement this programme for patients in Galway and Roscommon. The HSE officials also gave assurances that the new eight-storey block at UHG will be built as quickly as possible at an estimated cost of €52 million. In tandem, there will be a complete upgrade of Merlin Park University Hospital costing approximately €25 million. The Public Private Partnership project is the subject of a cost benefit analysis at present.”
HSE CEO Cathal Magee and HSE West Director John Hennessey emphasised the importance of securing the support of staff for the changes needed to put this new healthcare system in place. The officials assured Oireachtas members that talks are about to begin with clinical staff and unions and that they are confident that agreements will be reached before any action is taken.
“There was a positive response from all party members who expressed a strong desire to secure a better healthcare service for Galway and Roscommon people,” says Deputy Fahey.