Press statement by Hildegarde Naughton TD
Fine Gael, Galway West
Hospital management has finally conceded that the €18-million development of a new 75-bed ward block at UHG will not result in any additional bed capacity following months of equivocation and denial.
In February, the Galway City Tribune exclusively reported concerns raised by Galway West TD Hildegarde Naughton that three existing wards would close as part of the development, resulting in no net increase in hospital beds.
The revelation emerged as surgeries were cancelled and full-capacity protocol was invoked at UHG as a result of overcrowding and a shortage of inpatient hospital beds.
Saolta University Healthcare Group, which is responsible for the management of UHG and six other hospitals in the western region, subsequently refused to confirm Deputy Naughton’s assertion and claimed additional beds would result from the development.
However, hospital management this week confirmed that no additional bed spaces would be created by the €18-million development in response to a parliamentary question tabled by the Fine Gael TD.
Deputy Naughton asked for the number of additional beds that would result from the new building. In reply, General Manager Chris Kane referred to the 75-bed ward block and stated: “These are replacement beds.”
She explained that two existing wards would be relocated to the new building, accounting for the fact that there would be no additional capacity created by the development. A third ward was demolished to make way for the new building.
Hospital management is constrained from increasing bed capacity due to planning restrictions and provisions of the City Development Plan, which requires that adequate parking be provided in the event of any additional beds.
Deputy Naughton welcomed the admission and said that it had vindicated her position after months of equivocation and denial.
“The new ward block was touted as a solution to the hospital’s overcrowding crisis but this was fundamentally untrue from the beginning. Before a single block was laid, they knew that this would only replace existing capacity,” she said.
“I was criticised for bringing this to light but I’m pleased that it has now been acknowledged, and we can now refocus on identifying a real and lasting solution to the overcrowding crisis.
“Along with this admission, the hospital group also conceded last week that UHG is no longer fit for purpose and that the current crisis can only be overcome with the development of a new facility away from the existing site.
“The point of bringing the limitations of the new ward block to public attention was to highlight the fact that the UHG campus can no longer expand to meet the growing needs of Galway’s population,” explained Deputy Naughton.
“We need to look at developing a new hospital on a greenfield site with unlimited potential in Merlin Park. Management, clinicians and public representatives need to engage with these proposals if a medium-term solution to our current crisis is to be found.”