Physiotherapists at University Hospital Galway may be displaced for extra beds

Impact warns hospital the move would risk breaching Hiqa standards

University Hospital Galway has one of the busiest emergency departments in the State. Photograph: Eric Luke

University Hospital Galway has one of the busiest emergency departments in the State. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Management at the west’s largest public hospital aims to resolve overcrowding in the emergency department by acquiring a purpose-built physiotherapy department.

The Saolta group, which represents the west-northwest hospitals, has confirmed the physiotherapy department and “other accommodation” is being “considered” for temporary ward accommodation at University Hospital Galway (UHG).

UHG has one of the busiest emergency departments in the State, and Minister for Health Leo Varadkar recently acknowledged the hospital’s growing capacity issue as a result of reconfiguration of other hospitals in the region.

Last autumn UHG acknowledged that some patients attending its emergency department experienced a lack of privacy and dignity, after the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation held a protest to highlight overcrowding.

 

Patient safety

The trade union Impact has warned patient safety will be at risk if physiotherapy or any other distinct medical areas on the ground floor are displaced to resolve overcrowding issues in the emergency department in the short term.

 

It says Health and Information Quality Authority standards risk being breached by such displacement and points out the physiotherapy department is a centre of excellence.

Some 40 staff in UHG’s physiotherapy unit treat a monthly average of 750 acute patients, 70 respiratory cases and 1,400 outpatients.

It is understood management has proposed physiotherapists move into a smaller area currently used by social work, and also that outpatients would be seen at Merlin Park Hospital across the city.

 

Cancer patients

This could mean cancer patients who may have already travelled long distances to Galway for outpatient clinics would then be required to make their own transport arrangements between UHG and Merlin.

 

It is understood the physiotherapy staff believe it is a politically motivated move designed to ease the emergency department crisis in advance of the next general election.

Saolta says the physiotherapy department “will not be acquired for an extension to accident and emergency at UHG”.

“We are seeking to create temporary ward accommodation at UHG while a 75-bed ward block development progresses on site over an 18- month period, and physiotherapy and other accommodation is being considered in this context,” it has said.