A new A&E for Galway is not enough, the city needs a new hospital, according to outspoken Left TD Catherine Connolly, who accused Health Minister Simon Harris of "failing to grasp" this issue "either deliberately or through inexperience".
However Galway West Fine Gael TD, Seán Kyne said the Minister's announcement of the new A&E "will make a world of difference" to UHG patients and staff. Both politicians were reacting to the visit of Minister Harris to Galway, which took place on Monday.
Minister Harris said the new A&E is being designed and that funding for its construction will be prioritised as part of the mid-term this summer's review of the Capital Plan. However, planning permission needs first to be sought, and the process will take around four months at least. As a result, the Saolta Group and UHG management are introducing measures to reduce waiting times in the short term.
These measures include the introduction of six extra home care packages per week for UHG as part of the Winter Initiative; 16 new hospital beds as part of the phased opening of the new ward block; prioritisation of MRI scanning with outsourcing of five MRI high priority scans to free up capacity for in-patients; fast-tracking of children and young people to an Advanced Nurse Practitioner Unit; introduction of extra transitional care beds at Merlin Park for patients awaiting completion of nursing home applications; and increase in ED staffing to current level of 54 nursing staff.
The Minister for Gaeltacht Affairs and Natural Resources and Galway West Fine Gael TD, Seán Kyne, said the proposed new A&E "will make a world of difference" to UHG patients and staff, and that he will "ensure" it is "a priority and that construction starts as soon as possible".
A very different reaction came from Independent Galway West TD Catherine Connolly, who said the Minister's announcement there is money for the design stage of the new A&E is "nothing new", given he had answered a question on this in the Dáil some weeks previously. She was also highly critical of his failure to make any statement on the possibility of building a new hospital for Galway.
She accused the Minster of coming to Galway "to reiterate what we already knew and to allow photo opportunities for himself and Government TDs". She further accused the Minister, "either deliberately or through inexperience", of "failing to grasp" that not only is the A&E "not fit for purpose", and hence requires replacement, but of the more serious issue that the hospital itself "is not fit for purpose".
She pointed out that calls for a new hospital are not only coming from TDs, but are also coming from within the hospital itself. "The Clinical Director of the hospital and senior management have confirmed the hospital itself is not fit for purpose," she said. "They set this out in a written submission to the Minister in December and it has also been clarified that the lack of capacity is the number one factor on the risk register. Yet, extraordinarily given the circumstances the Minster hasn’t made a single statement on this issue."