More resources must be allocated to University Hospital Galway to meet growing demands being placed on it as a result of the recent decision to close Roscommon County Hospital’s A&E department and shift all its acute emergency services to hospitals in the surrounding areas.
That is the view of Cllr Padraig Conneely, the chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum, who is warning that this situation will not be workable unless additional staff and beds are provided in Galway.
He says both UHG and Portiuncula Hospitals will become busier as people presenting with emergencies such as road traffic injuries, chest or abdominal pain, pregnancy related conditions and alcohol/drug related problems are directed to these hospitals instead. Mayo and Sligo General Hospitals will also cater for acute emergency service patients previously catered for in Roscommon.
He is concerned that UHG’s emergency department is already under pressure with up to 40 patients on trolleys some nights.
“I am concerned because there is a major problem with the A&E department. There can be 25 to 40 patients on trolleys there some nights. This is not acceptable. When it is opened up to Roscommon there will be further pressure. I’ve no problem with these people coming here if there are sufficient staff and beds for them. While minor injuries will be catered for at Roscommon Hospital, anything serious will be sent into Galway. The situation will not be workable unless further resources are made available.
“If Galway is the busiest A&E in the country already then more funding must be provided to cater for this expected increased demand. As it is it is not going to work, it will cause more confusion and result in more patients on trolleys. More beds and staff must be provided, it can’t be expected to cater for increased demand without these being put in place. Resources must be provided to match the rise in demand for services.
“One thing the Galway hospital has is expert care as well as state-of-the-art facilities. It is recognised as a good hospital once you are in there. It will be able to cater for the additional patients, the problem is getting them through the system. Hopefully its new chief executive, who should be appointed by September, will make major changes.”
He says a number of beds remain closed at the regional hospital and only 12, at most, of its 16 operating theatres are opened due to a shortage of theatre nurses. However, the announcement by Health Minister Dr James Reilly recently that 12 additional theatre nurses will be allocated to UHG in the next two months was good news, he said. The Minister also undertook to consider the employment of a further 12 student nurses who would be specificially trained as theatre nurses.
Cllr Conneely says he is confident Minister Reilly will make positive changes at the west’s biggest hospital.
“The Minister is on top of things. We [FG locally] had several discussions with him. He is making changes. He knows the expertise is there, Galway is a leading hospital in terms of medical care.”
Dr David O Keeffe, the clinical director of the Galway Roscommon Hospital Group, says the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA ) made clear recommendations regarding the level of health service which should be provided in a smaller hospital, such as Roscommon.
“Our priority is to provide the safest level of care for our patients. It is widely acknowledged that the safest place for patients to receive acute emergency care is in a larger centre with specialists who have all the necessary support and equipment to deliver that care. In addition there have been ongoing difficulties recruiting the required number of NCHDs (non consultant hospital doctors ) required to safely deliver a safe 24-hour service in Roscommon. In the recent past we have been managing this issue through the use of locum doctors. That is not a sustainable or safe solution in the long term.”
John Hennessy, the regional director of operations with the HSE West, says patient safety is the primary consideration behind these changes to hospital services.
“It is important that the public familiarise themselves with the new arrangements to ensure that they are accessing appropriate care in the right setting. Information in relation to the changes is being made available through adverts in media, leaflets are being distributed to households in the area and updated information will be provided on the HSE website at www.hse.ie