THE prospect of an elective-only hospital in the Mid-West has effectively been ruled out by the Minister for Health, who has confirmed that location for new facilities as Galway, Cork and Dublin.
With the main nurses’ union reporting 126 people on trolleys on a single day last week, concerns continue to intensify over health care provision in this region.
The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) described conditions as “inhumane”, and an expert is now to be deployed to examine the situation.
Overcrowding has led to the repeated cancellation of elective procedures with concerns over lengthening waiting lists. Against this backdrop, calls for a public electives-only hospital in the Mid-West have increased in recent weeks. The matter has been raised in Dáil Éireann by Deputy Joe Carey who described the provision of such a facility, in this region, as “critically important”.
The Fine Gael member asked Minister Stephen Donnelly if he had discussed the need for an elective-only hospital with the executive management team of University Hospital Limerick (UHL) during his visit to the facility last February.
He also asked about his plans to fast-track the case for an elective-only hospital in this region, as well as the the timeline for the development of an elective-only hospital for each of the options currently being explored.
Responding, Minister Donnelly said that the Department of Health is “committed to improving services at University Limerick Hospital Group and ensuring patient-centred care for the people of the Mid-West”.
He said that, in recent years, there has been significant investment in University Limerick Hospital Group (ULHG), to support additional infrastructure and services.
He pledged that the Department will continue to work with the Health Service Executive (HSE) “to ensure services, facilities and patient experience at ULHG continue to be developed into the future”.
The Fianna Fáil member outlined that capital investment decision are informed by Programme for Government, sectoral policies, strategies and reform initiatives set out in Sláintecare.
He added that the Department of Health engages with the HSE in the planning for and delivery of capital projects; and that as part of these procedures, “project proposals must be prepared by the relevant Hospital Group”.
He said proposals are then forwarded to the relevant HSE service directorate for support and sign off before being submitted to the HSE National Capital and Property Steering Committee for consideration and recommendation for inclusion in the project pipeline.
Minister Donnelly noted that the provision of elective-only hospitals was proposed in
the Sláintecare Report in 2017. He said that the “Elective Hospitals Oversight Group”, under the joint governance of the Department of Health and HSE has been guiding the development of the elective hospital proposals.
The minister confirmed the decision of cabinet in December to green-light elective-only, standalone hospitals for Galway, Cork and Dublin.
“It is important to note that the locations chosen will allow for new facilities of a size and scale to implement a national elective care programme that will tackle waiting lists on a national basis,” Minister Donnelly said.
“This means that the new facilities will be designed to maximise their capacity and in doing so will operate to cover as a wide catchment area as possible, extending beyond existing and future health areas including the mid-west [sic].”
As part of the National Elective Ambulatory Care Strategy, which was approved by cabinet in December, three elective-only facilities are planned. It is estimated that these will provide coverage for 60-70% of the overall population, and carry out 940,000 planned procedures and operations every year.