€100m surgical hub plan to be considered in effort to cut waiting lists

Plan will be to develop hubs in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Cork, and Waterford in next 12-18 months

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly is to bring a €100 million plan to Cabinet for surgical hubs designed to slash waiting lists for day procedures.

It’s understood that the Wicklow TD intends to bring a memorandum to Cabinet this week seeking Government agreement for his plan to develop five of the new hubs which will provide more operating theatres.

They are based on the Reeves Centre in Tallaght University Hospital, which saw a retail unit separate to the hospital converted into a hub for day surgeries. Government sources say this has slashed waiting lists for certain procedures by 90 per cent.

The plan to seek Cabinet approval for the hubs before Christmas was reported by the Business Post on Sunday.

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The intent is to develop the hubs in Dublin, Limerick, Galway, Cork, and Waterford within the next 12-18 months, either by retrofit or modular build. They would be kept separate from emergency services, meaning they would be kept free for patients awaiting scheduled care and reducing the risk of short-notice cancellations when the healthcare system is under pressure.

The hubs are to be built in addition to three major elective care centres which are being planned for Dublin, Cork and Galway, which will take longer to deliver and must be administered through the public spending code.

The hubs will focus on high volume surgeries like urology, vascular surgery, orthopaedics, gynaecology and ophthalmology.

A Government source said the hope is that the hubs will enable the health system to get to a place where nobody is waiting longer than three months for day procedures, once they are clinically suitable.

The existing Reeves Centre was built across the road from the hospital in an existing structure that needed a change of use planning permission, but others are likely to be built on hospital campuses. Tallaght has seen a more than 90 per cent reduction in the number of patients waiting three months or more for procedures in the past 18 months.

A source said that the new centres would add hundreds of beds and the ability to carry out hundreds of thousands of procedures annually.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a political reporter with The Irish Times