A BACKLOG in elective medical procedures caused by Covid-19 restrictions means that Ennis General Hospital must be upgraded and have its 24/7 Emergency Department restored, Clare County Councillors have claimed.
At the July meeting of the local authority, Councillor Donna McGettigan tabled a motion calling on the new health minister to upgrade the facility to a Model Three, meaning that it would have capacity to perform more complex procedures as well as having a round-the-clock Casualty Department.
“The pandemic has brought a whole new urgency to the situation,” the Sinn Féin member said. “Around the country, there are 2,700 people waiting for urgent bowel cancer tests, 300 of them over 90 days. People are dying on waiting lists and we have to act otherwise people will suffer irreparable and life-changing damage. Ennis General really needs to be upgraded to respond to the situation.”
The motion was seconded by Councillor Johnny Flynn. “As a member of the Ennis Hospital Action Group, I support this call,” he said. “The pandemic has shown the strength of our system is the staff. Our weakness is capacity. We are the only county in the Midwestern Region without a Model Three hospital and have been advocating at the HSE Regional Forum for one.”
Lending her backing to the motion, Councillor Ann Norton said she had raised the issue many times and brought it to the health forum. “We are always getting knocked back,” she said. “You would wonder how the Emergency Department in Ennis could be closed without a Model Three facility in the county. Now trolley numbers are beginning to rise again in Limerick and the rate of increase is ahead of other hospitals.” The Independent member also noted that Ennis General needs a new operating theatre. “We won’t get Model Three status for Ennis without that,” she said. “It’s the first time that we have had so many Oireachtas members for this county and we must get the new government and new health minister to progress this situation.”
Councillor Norton and Flynn also commended the staff of the Local Injuries Unit at Ennis General and urged the public to make use of it.
Adding his voice to the calls for an upgrade, Councillor PJ Ryan said the situation was now urgent. “We have raised this numerous times with the HSE forum,” he noted. “We have proved we have the population to justify a Model Three hospital for Ennis. With the new government, we might have a chance to have the situation revisited.” On the subject of the injuries clinic, the Independent member noted that parking continued to be a problem. “There are many empty buildings around the site of the hospital,” he said. “Maybe parking could be extended to allow more people to access the facilities.”
Councillor Gerry Flynn said he remembered the time when better services were promised to the region. “We met a minister who said that a Centre of Excellence at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) would cure all of our ills,” he said. “It has not been a success. The system is in ruins. It is a dysfunctional system.”
According to Councillor Pat Daly, the issue has been a source of concern for many years. “Along the Western seaboard from Donegal to Cork, every county has a Model Three hospital, except Clare,” he said. “It is disgraceful that we should have to face another winter without an Emergency Department in the county. We need to bring the new health minister to Ennis and show him that we need a Model Three hospital.”