Fixating on hospital overcrowding figures not helpful – Taoiseach

Leo Varadkar denies opening of state-of-the-art €18m UHG facility is ‘PR job’

University Hospital Galway: a new 75-bed ward block has been opened. File photograph: Google Street View

University Hospital Galway: a new 75-bed ward block has been opened. File photograph: Google Street View


Concentrating on hospital overcrowding and trolley figures was not helpful to patients or staff, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said as he opened a new 75-bed ward block at University Hospital Galway on Thursday.

He denied the opening of the state-of-the-art €18 million facility was a “PR job”, saying it was already bringing comfort to cancer patients in the dedicated oncology ward and that an infection control ward and a haematology ward were also a much welcomed addition.

Speaking earlier on Galway Bay FM, Ann Burke, industrial relations officer with the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, described as “a miracle” how 58 patients on trolleys in the hospital’s emergency department had been reduced to 26 overnight.

Also sceptical

Independent TD Catherine Connolly was also sceptical, saying the hospital had to lose 20 beds to create the new facility and that beds had been closed elsewhere in the hospital due to understaffing.

Mr Varadkar said it would take more than additional bed capacity to solve overcrowding.

“More than 300 beds will be added across the country this year, with 2,500 beds over the next 10 years. We know, however, from other hospitals, that extra staff, beds and money will not reduce waiting times for patients or overcrowding if it’s not done in tandem with modernised systems and ever more efficient practices.

“We have a problem in our health service with access. There are too many people waiting to see specialists to get procedures, but we shouldn’t judge hospitals based on waiting lists or trolley figures. More people are now surviving cancer and heart diseases, and 85 per cent of our patients take a wider view and report a good experience,” he said.

The new Galway facility over three floors provides 75 single en-suite rooms, including six isolation rooms.

Mr Varadkar said it was sorely needed, adding he hoped to see work start very soon on the new emergency department at UHG.