The chairperson of the HSE West’s regional health forum said this week he was not “shocked” to learn that University Hospital Galway has been rated the worst performing hospital in the country again.
Cllr Padraig Conneely said this “red” rating in the HSE’s HealthStat [the HSE league table] - which means the regional hospital requires urgent attention - indicated to him that it was “leaderless, unmanageable and not meeting any of its targets”.
“UHG has consistently been the worst performing hospital for a number of years,” said the former mayor. “It is irreparable, it has gone over the brink, it has fallen off the cliff as regards acute hospitals. It has gone full circle.
“Drastic action must be taken by the Minister and the Department of Health. A new management structure has to be put in or else the FairCare policy [Fine Gael’s plan to reform the health service] announced prior to the election must be implemented. This is an opportunity for the minister to implement this policy in Galway. Why not start in Galway? Let’s be brave and take on the challenge here. I have been raising the HealthStats issue for four to five years. The minister has a good reason to start a new implementation policy here as UHG is constantly and continually the worst performing hospital in the country.”
His comments came as Galway West Fine Galway TD Brian Walsh announced a radical overhaul of hospital management throughout the HSE West region whereby responsibility for the running of UHG is to be assigned to a private company next month.
He said the sweeping reforms will introduce a new management structure that will report directly to the Department of Health through Special Delivery Units (SDUs ) while existing HSE management will undergo a process of upskilling as part of the plans.
The announcement follows discussions between Deputy Walsh and Minister for Health James Reilly after the Galway TD submitted proposals for reform of the management system at UHG earlier this year.
Welcoming the initiative, Deputy Walsh hailed the move as “the most significant reform of the acute hospital sector in Ireland since the inception of the HSE”.
“It has been apparent for some time from the persistent performance-related difficulties at UHG that there was a real case to be made for radical reform,” he said. “We could not continue to fire-fight using stopgap measures without seeking a lasting and comprehensive solution.
“Galway’s public hospitals have exceptional nursing staff, state-of-the-art facilities and some of the top clinical specialists in the world. But it is clear that there are deficiencies within the management structure of the HSE.”
“Minister Reilly has acknowledged that excellent administrators within the HSE were promoted to management in the past without ever being given the skillset to do their jobs. But these plans will bring people in from the outside to address those deficiencies.”
He outlined the Department of Health has already begun a tender process in which five companies are competing to secure a contract for taking over the running of a number of acute hospitals in the HSE West region.
Deputy Walsh said that he is hopeful the process can be completed quickly and a contract could be signed within the next two weeks. It is intended that the new management structures will be in place next month.
Fellow Fine Gael deputy Sean Kyne stated that the new management team will be employed on a short term contract of 12 to 15 months maximum.
“During this time the objective will be that this temporary team will share its skills and knowledge of management and administration with the local existing management team. Furthermore, the new temporary management team will work with the local management to put in place new processes and procedures which will tackle the problems facing UHG such as the delays in A and E and the waiting lists.
“I have been assured that this plan has been successfully tried in Tallaght hospital with the result of a major reduction in the number of patients waiting on trollies, down to as low as four or less.”
He stressed there was no question of privatising UHG and reiterated his support for the provision of public health services in Galway.
The new management of Galway University Hospitals will oversee an annual budget of up to €300 million and direct a staff of almost 4,500 within the group that includes Merlin Park, Roscommon General and Portiuncula Hospitals.