UHG authorities accused of utilising scarce resources on projects which did little to ease overcrowding crisis

A local TD has accused hospital authorities at the west's biggest hospital of poorly utilising scarce resources on capital projects which offered no respite from the persistent overcrowding crisis which dogs the facility.

Deputy Hildegarde Naughton told the Dail on Tuesday that while University Hospital Galway is blessed with a team of world-class doctors and healthcare professionals it is struggling beneath the weight of inadequate resources and unmanageable demand.

"As a result, the hospital is beset with the longest waiting lists in the country, the most cancelled procedures in the country, and frequently the highest number of patients on trolleys in the country."

The Fine Gael TD said that the capacity of the 700 bed hospital to provide for the needs of a growing and ageing population cannot be expanded due to planning and spatial restrictions on the current site. She cited the development of a new 75-bed block, which cost about €18 million to build, but she claimed it would result in no net increase in hospital beds due to restrictions contained in the City Development Plan.

Millions of euros had been spent on a carpark that did not create any parking spaces and a ward block that did not add any beds, she claimed. Referring to the construction of a two-storey car park on the site of an existing carpark at UHG she alleged: "Remarkably, this project resulted in there being 80 fewer parking spaces at the hospital.

"We are building carparks that don’t create any parking spaces; and building ward blocks that don’t provide any extra beds. We need to stop this; take stock of why this is happening, and decide what should happen next," she said.

She described it as a "shame" that scarce resources had been poorly utilised on capital projects that offered no respite from the persistent overcrowding crisis at the hospital.

Deputy Naughton went on to reiterate her call for a new acute hospital to be developed at Merlin Park Hospital on a phased basis.

Meanwhile Minister of State and Tuam man, Finian McGrath, told the Dáil that questions need to be answered in relation to spending on construction projects at UHG. He undertook to discuss the matter with Minister for Health Simon Harris. He welcomed Deputy Naughton's comments. "There are questions to be answered and I accept that point. The issue about capital funding and how we spend capital funding, of course, it has to be examined," he added.

The Minister noted that clinicians at the hospital had supported Deputy Naughton's proposals for the development of new facilities at Merlin Park. "We have a duty to listen to the people who run the services, the professionals on the frontline, so what I'll do in relation to this particular issue is I will go back to Minister Harris and raise these particular concerns."

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