Minister admits a second Mid West emergency department ‘will take years’

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly recently visited the site of the long-awaited 96-bed block at UHL. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

HEALTH Minister Stephen Donnelly admitted that, even if a review determines that the region needs another emergency department (ED), it “will take years” for one to materialise.

The Minister recently commissioned health watchdog HIQA to produce a review of emergency services in the Mid West region and determine whether a second ED is needed.

Speaking in an interview on Newstalk radio, the Minister said that providing such a facility would require having another Model 3 hospital in the region.

“Even if a second ED is the recommendation from the review, with the best will in the world, that will take years,” he said.

Minister Donnelly said that the best course of action in the meantime is to push on with the improvements already in train at the hospital, with investment providing more staff and more bed capacity already underway.

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“There are now 10 to 15 ED consultants in UHL, double the number of junior doctors in the ED and more nursing staff,” the Minister said.

He added that outside the bed-blocks currently under construction,  86 step-down beds are being provided in Clare and Tipperary to free up capacity at the acute hospital.

But he said that while the government has responded to the calls from the hospital for more supports, he also believes that UHL must press on with other changes.

“There needed to be significant changes in the hospital and how it was run,” including the current policy of “not scheduling senior decision makers on site at weekends”.

The Minister said that reforms since the HSE sent in “three of our most senior executives,” following the early appointment of HSE regional manager Sandra Broderick, can already be seen in reduced numbers on trolleys.

“Reforms have started, but we have a ways to go,” he added.

The highest number of patients recorded by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation as waiting on trolleys this week was 133 (May 27), the second highest number since UHL broke its own overcrowding record earlier this year with 150 patients on trolleys on February 7.