Senator calls on HSE to assess overcrowding at University Hospital Galway

Former minister says 24 patients waiting on trolleys, while numbers reached 36 last week

The Department of Health has been asked to send in a HSE team to manage the discharge of patients from University Hospital Galway (UHG) and assess the overcrowding that has occurred over the past month.

Fine Gael Senator Sean Kyne said a national HSE team had been sent before to improve the efficiency of the hospital and it could be done again because overcrowding at the hospital has meant 24 patients are on hospital trolleys awaiting admittance.

The former minister of State said “the figure was as high as 36 last week, and it has gone up and down from the low 20s to the mid-30s over the past month”.

He said while it had been a strange year in healthcare provision because of Covid-19, “this is the month of May, not a month that is traditionally associated with overcrowding due to the winter flu, vomiting bugs and the like”.

Mr Kyne hit out at the Saolta University Hospital Group, which operates the hospital and said it had still not submitted a planning application for a new emergency department more than two years after it made a commitment to then minister for health Simon Harris to do so by Christmas 2018.

The Galway Senator said “there is a lack of focus and direction from the Saolta hospital group in terms of the emergency department” and the people and patients “are suffering from having an emergency department that is still not fit for purpose”.

Attendance levels

Minister of State for Health Frankie Feighan said a number of factors had contributed to the increase in hospital trolley numbers, including a significantly higher level of attendances.

“Admissions for the over-75 age group with higher levels of acuity have returned to pre-pandemic levels,” he said. “The management of Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 pathways presents an additional challenge to patient flow in UHG emergency department.

“The hospital is also experiencing capacity issues due to an increase in elective activity and bed closures for operational reasons.”

Mr Feighan said work on a temporary extension to the emergency department has been approved as part of a larger development and construction is expected to start this month and be completed early next year.

He added that the HSE is actively working with UHG and the Saolta hospital group “to ease congestion with a focus on patient flow [by] facilitating transfers to level 2 hospitals, providing assistance from community health organisation services to support egress, and prioritising diagnostics to aid inpatient discharges”.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is a parliamentary reporter with The Irish Times