Close to 700 people were left on trolleys at University Hospital Galway in June, a 59 per cent increase on last year, and is a result of the non-intervention of the Health Minister, Leo Varadkar.
This is the view of Fianna Fáil Galway East TD Colm Keaveney, who was reacting to new figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, the release of which comes ahead of Minister Varadkar's visit to UHG. According to Dep Keaveney, over the past three years, the number of people on trolleys at UHG has risen from 181 in 2013, to 422 in 2014, rising again to 670 last month.
The situation has led both Dep Keaveney and Labour Galway West TD Derek Nolan to call for a new Emergency Department for University Hospital Galway, but both men differ in their analyses of how the Government is responding to the crisis.
Dep Keaveney has accused Minister Varadkar of "sitting back without intervening". He said: "Services in Galway have not been sufficiently expanded to deal with the increased demand. Patients are being deprived of dignity in these exposed areas, but also for the frontline staff charged with their care. Minister Varadkar has failed to engage meaningfully with doctors, nurses, and frontline staff to address the core problems. He set up a taskforce and took a backseat, preferring to give a running commentary on the seriousness of the situation without initiating tangible measures to improve the conditions in our emergency departments."
Dep Nolan is more optimistic following a recent visit to UHG by the Minister for Public Expenditure, Brendan Howlin. At UHG, the minister met staff and heard concerns about the limitations of the building and how patients’ safety, privacy, and dignity are often compromised. Minister Howlin is also due to announce a new capital funding plan in the autumn, and there are hopes this may lead to an expanded emergency department.
Minister Varadkar is also due to visit UHG and according to Dep Nolan, he will "be able to witness the serious challenges that the staff and patients face on a daily basis".
However the Labout TD said that the visits by the ministers will only be seen as a success if they lead to a new emergency department for UHG.
“The Minister himself has stated to me in the Dáil that the current building is not fit for purpose and a new building has to be the medium to long term solution. I am looking forward to his visit so that he can finally see the reality of the situation," said Dep Nolan. "Getting a new ED is a priority for me and, more importantly, a priority for Galway. A good standard of healthcare is the fundamental basis of any society and investing in infrastructure is a key component of that."