Saolta fail to recognise that Portiuncula serves Midlands and not just East Galway
Over the past 12 months the Saolta Hospital Group has been promoting a plan to close maternity and A&E services in Portiuncula Hospital and relocate them to a new hospital on the grounds of Merlin Park in Galway, Denis Naughten has revealed.
“Such a plan ignores the fact that Portiuncula Hospital not only services East Galway and much of County Roscommon but also parts of Leitrim, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly and Tipperary,” stated Denis Naughten. “Furthermore, it undermines Project Ireland 2040 which plans to see Athlone developed as a city with Portiuncula as its hospital. How can we have a city that does not even have access to an emergency or maternity department?
“I understand the Minister for Health was briefed on the plans early last year, when he should have highlighted to Saolta that such a plan would seriously undermine Government policy to develop Athlone as a city, yet late last year Saolta outlined its strategy to create the new super-hospital in Merlin Park to TDs and Senators in Dublin.
“Even though I raised my serious objection to the plan in writing with the Minister for Health last December, to date all I have received is an acknowledgement.
“I believe this plan is being used to delay and undermine investment in upgrading facilities at hospitals like Roscommon and Portiuncula.”
The Saolta Hospital Group has presented an ‘options appraisal document’ for a new model 4 hospital on the grounds of Merlin Park Regional Hospital in Galway. Dr Pat Nash, medical director of the Saolta Hospital group, stated that the plan was that the new hospital in Merlin Park would be the Model 4 Hospital for the Saolta Hospital Group but also admitted that the hospital would also be the new Model 3 Hospital for Galway and Roscommon on the Merlin Park site.
“This means that the new hospital on the Merlin Park site will provide 24/7 acute surgery, acute medicine and critical care for County Galway and County Roscommon. In reality, this means that all inpatient surgery for Galway and Roscommon will be carried out on the Merlin Park site and that both the emergency and maternity departments currently based at Portiuncula Hospital will be relocated to the Merlin Park site also.
“This will give rise to concerns about the commitment to deliver the new emergency department at Galway University Hospital if it is ultimately to be relocated to Merlin Park as part of the plans to centralise hospital services for West Galway, East Galway and County Roscommon on this new site.
“Since the establishment of the Saolta Hospital Group all other hospitals in the region have struggled to get much needed investment and it seems that there is a determined agenda to move everything possible to Galway City, which is contrary to the Slaintecare plan of treating as many patients as possible in their local hospital.
“It is planned that this project will be completed in phases, with phase one being the new elective hospital block which was announced late last year. The other two phases would be an acute block and a women’s and children’s block which would accommodate patients throughout County Galway and County Roscommon.
“This plan is being used behind closed doors to undermine investment in Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals and it seems that I’m the only one who has called them out on their agenda.
“The only way for this plan to be shelved and investment in Portiuncula and Roscommon Hospitals to be secured is to have a strong Independent voice in Government to ensure it is government policy that decides how our health services are developed and not the plans of unelected managers.
“If Saolta want a new centralised hospital then there is 60 acres of land available for such a hospital on the St Brigid’s campus in Ballinasloe, which is just east of Merlin Park on the motorway and would make far more sense from a Government policy perspective,” concluded Denis Naughten.
COPY OF LETTER SENT TO MINISTER HARRIS and his response:
Minister Simon Harris TD,
Department of Health,
Block 1, Miesian Plaza,
50 – 58 Lower Baggot Street,
12th December 2019
Dear Minister Harris,
At a recent briefing of Oireachtas Members, the Saolta Hospital Group presented us with an options appraisal document for a new model 4 hospital on the grounds of Merlin Park Regional Hospital in Galway.
At the meeting Dr Pat Nash stated that this would be the Model 4 Hospital for the Saolta Hospital Group and also be the Model 3 Hospital for Galway and Roscommon. In other words, the new hospital on the Merlin Park site will provide 24/7 acute surgery, acute medicine, and critical care for County Galway and County Roscommon.
This, in reality, means that all surgery for Galway and Roscommon will be carried out on the Merlin Park site and that both the emergency and maternity departments currently based at Portiuncula Hospital will be relocated to the Merlin Park site also.
Dr Nash went on to point out that this project would be completed in phases, with phase one being the new elective hospital block which you announced recently. The other two phases would be an acute block and a women’s & children’s block.
This report was dated last August, however I have now come across a statement issued by Deputy Hildegarde Naughton last January (attached), well in advance of the formal announcement of the new elective hospital.
As Dr. Nash put it at the meeting with Oireachtas members “this is phase one of a final solution”.
This was never part of Project Ireland 2040 and contradicts the core principals as set out in the Programme for Partnership Government to support the development of smaller hospitals.
However, this agenda by Saolta management demonstrates to me why it had been so difficult to progress the 50-bed ward block project at Portiuncula Hospital, the CSSD and Rehab at Roscommon Hospital and the other developments at Castlebar & Sligo Hospitals.
As I have said to you and to the Saolta Hospital management previously, in advance of any decision on a new elective hospital, all existing capacity on the other 5 sites at Roscommon, Ballinasloe, Castlebar, Sligo and Letterkenny should be fully utilised.
At the meeting with Saolta and the Oireachtas members Dr.Nash said that the other sites were looked at briefly, but with the steering group having no representative from the other hospitals I am not surprised with its conclusions.
In the last number of days I have had the opportunity to discuss the content of this proposal with a number of people working within the health sector and as a result of those discussions, it is now clear to me that the agenda here is to undermine the sustainability of Roscommon Hospital and to close the maternity & emergency departments at Portiuncula Hospital.
I wish to state that I cannot support such a proposal.
Denis Naughten TD
Wednesday, 9th January 2019
Press Statement by Hildegarde Naughton TD
Fine Gael, Galway West and South Mayo
Independent report to recommend Merlin Park as site for new hospital – Naughton
Merlin Park has been identified as the preferred site for the development of a new hospital in an independent report commissioned by Saolta University Hospital Group, local TD Hildegarde Naughton has revealed.
The recommendation represents the latest progress in Deputy Naughton’s campaign for the development of a new hospital in Galway following the inclusion of a 200-bed elective facility for Merlin Park in the Government’s capital plan last February.
The Fine Gael TD also secured approval from the Minister for Health for an options appraisal on the future hospital needs of Galway, which is expected to be completed next month.
The plans for further hospital development on the Merlin Park site have now received a further boost in an independent report on short-, medium- and long-term solutions for the future of healthcare in the region.
“I have learned in recent days that independent consultants with vast expertise in healthcare planning have identified the Merlin Park site as the preferred option for any future hospital development in Galway,” said Deputy Naughton.
“With approximately 180 acres in state ownership and existing planning, it was always clear to me that Merlin Park should be preferred over the congested Newcastle Road UHG site,” she added.
“I am pleased that, using international best practice in the healthcare area, consultants have also now identified this option as the best one for Galway and the region,” said the Galway West TD.
“I have already received a commitment from the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the Government to construct a new elective hospital in Galway. He has indicated that, of the three planned elective facilities in Dublin, Cork and Galway, the Galway location would be easiest to progress due to the availability of the Merlin Park site,” she explained.
“The new report makes clear that building the elective facility on this site as a first phase of a larger hospital development is the only feasible option. Plans for this new hospital must now be prioritised and I will be meeting Minister Harris in Dublin next week to discuss the speedy progression of the project.
“In my view, there is also an urgent need for a short-term project to provide for a new Accident and Emergency unit at the UHG site. While the report is very clear that what is needed in the long term is the phased transfer of hospital facilities to a new campus in Merlin Park, the present A&E is unfit for use and we cannot wait for a new hospital to be built,” stated Deputy Naughton.
“It will come as no surprise to patients or healthcare professionals that the report also identifies a clear bed shortage in Galway, which cannot to resolved on the UHG site due to issues of capacity.
“It is now abundantly clear that we cannot continue to throw good money after bad and we must now look beyond UHG to Merlin Park if we are to solve our overcrowding crisis once and for all. We cannot continue any longer with the short-term thinking, wasted resources, and political opportunism that have characterised our health planning in Galway in the past.”
On Behalf Of Minister’s_Office@health.gov.ie
Sent: 17 December 2019 14:50
To: Denis Naughten <Denis.Naughten@oireachtas.ie>
17 December 2019
Mr Denis Naughten T.D.
I wish to acknowledge receipt of your correspondence concerning a new model 4 hospital on the grounds of Merlin Park .
Simon Harris T.D.
Minister for Health**************************