A local TD has hit out at what he called the slow progress on planning for a new emergency department at University Hospital Galway.
Deputy Noel Grealish was told by Health Minister Leo Varadkar, in response to a Dáil question last week, that it would be another two months before the development cleared its first hurdle.
The Minister said that a cost benefit analysis in relation to a new emergency department was currently under way and it is anticipated that this will be completed by March 2016. Minister Varadkar added that if the analysis was favourable, the project would go to the design phase in 2016.
However, the Galway West Independent TD, said this week that the rate of progress on replacing the current outdated and overcrowded emergency department was simply too slow.
“If we continue at this snail’s pace, when are we going to have an A&E that is actually up to the job … to say that it may go to design phase in 2016 is way too vague and puts the whole thing on the long finger. What is needed is for this facility to be given urgent priority and fast-tracked so that the diggers can move in on the site and construction work is started as soon as is humanly possible.
“After all, the Taoiseach himself told the Dáil a few months ago that the current facility is ‘not fit for purpose’ and the Minister is also on record as saying that a rebuild is the only solution to the problems there.”
He urged the Minister to treat the project as a top priority and called for “real and speedy progress” to be made on bringing it to completion.
Minister Varadkar, in his reply to Deputy Grealish’s Dáil question, said that in order to alleviate pressures and to improve patient experience in the existing emergency department, there were two major developments currently under way in Galway.
He outlined that the HSE made more than €2m available in 2015 to develop an additional 30 beds in GUH in order to reduce overcrowding. Structural work is progressing well to create a new emergency ward within the existing hospital footprint which will allow for these 30 extra patient spaces.
The first phase of this development became operational on January 4 2016 and the second phase is now under way. Construction work is also ongoing on the new 75 bed ward block which will provide single room in-patient accommodation.
Deputy Grealish said that while anything that might improve “the lot of patients at UHG” was to be welcomed only a complete rebuild of the emergency department would make a real difference.
“The emergency department at UHG is the busiest of any hospital in the whole country - in 2014 it catered for almost 66,000 people. It was never built to cater for numbers like that.”