UHG authorities consider providing new hospital in Merlin Park within 15 years

“Ad hoc planning” and the absence of “political will” stalled the development of a new public hospital for Galway for years. Dep Catherine Connolly hit out this week at both senior hospital management at University Hospital Galway over the years for failing to commit in a “planned and timely manner” to such a project and the various governments for “refusing to even contemplate” the issue.

Her comments came following a briefing for Oireachtas members from Galway/Roscommon on Friday.

Dr Pat Nash, the chief clinical director of the Saolta University Health Care Group, which runs the hospital, acknowledged in the context of a discussion about the constraints of the UHG site that plans for developments in the future, including a new hospital, would have to consider the Merlin Park site. It is understood that the timeframe for such a development would be 10 to 15 years.

Newly elected Independent TD Deputy Connolly said she has campaigned for a new hospital for years, especially in the past 10 years as a member of the HSE West’s regional health forum.

However the authorities failed to move on the issue, she stated, choosing instead to extend the currently overburdened 700 bed building.

“Rather than commit to a new hospital in a planned and timely manner, however, senior management at the hospital, along with each new government in power, refused to even contemplate such a development. Instead new wings and new buildings were constructed on an already congested site and in an ad hoc manner and under pressure in response to each crisis arising.

“Indeed the helicopter pad had to be temporarily moved into the Shantalla Community Park at a cost of approximately €250,000 to facilitate the construction of a temporary car park which will not add one additional car parking space to the site. In addition planning permission has been given for a 50 bedded mental health unit which, had sense prevailed, should have been constructed in Merlin Park. Furthermore a 50 bedded replacement ward, along with a new 75 bed ward block, is also planned resulting in only 25 extra beds!”

Deputy Connolly said she repeatedly spoke out against such “ad hoc planning” and “lack of political will” to tackle what was required, “which was a new hospital”.

“Finally sense seems to have prevailed,” she stated. “At a briefing for public representatives last Friday afternoon, both the clinical director and the manager of University College Hospital Galway openly acknowledged that planning should immediately begin for a new hospital. Moreover both acknowledged that all planned construction works are simply fire fighting and crisis driven.

“Indeed they also confirmed that on the risk register compiled as part of the management’s statutory duty, the biggest risk is lack of capacity!”

Deputy Connolly said their frank acknowledgement that a new hospital is “absolutely necessary” was refreshing and it now time for Galway West TDs to work together to ensure that a new hospital becomes a reality.

“Indeed given that capacity is the biggest risk on the risk register, the Government must now act under health and safety.”

Meanwhile Fine Gael TD for Galway West and Mayo South, Deputy Seán Kyne stated that the Saolta group and the Government must put improving current facilities at UHG at the top of their agenda.

He said the securing of investment for projects, including a new emergency department at the hospital, must be a top priority.

“The development of a new hospital at Merlin Park is an exciting plan which should be explored further but all involved, including Galway’s public representatives, must acknowledge that such a project is a long term one which will take the best part of a decade to accomplish. We must ensure that such a new project does not impede the securing of funding and investment for other vital projects at the UHG such as the construction of a new emergency department.

“Such projects will benefit people and communities across Galway and the west in the short term and, as is the case of the UHG ED, are badly needed. We also have to remember that the development of new facilities and upgrading of existing facilities at UHG and the construction of a new hospital at Merlin Park are not mutually exclusive. However, it would foolish and unacceptable to put at risk the investment and the progress in improving UHG in favour of a long-term relocation plan.”

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