Prefabs may be used as theatres to ease pressure on hospitals
Specially built prefabs could be turned into operating theatres - and even mortuaries - in a ground-breaking bid by the HSE to ease hospital overcrowding.
Pressure on the health service during peak periods of demand, including an unresolved trolley crisis, continues to adversely affect patient care.
In February, the HSE confirmed plans to set up specially designed prefabs in selected hospital grounds to try and relieve the trolley crisis.
These will contain single en-suite facilities, or four bedroom units, which will be fitted with standard bathrooms.
This accommodation will be particularly focused on patients who are mobile and need a short hospital stay.
It could cater for those with minor breaks, people waiting on tests results, or those undergoing a course of specialist antibiotics.
The plan also envisages patients who may be post-surgery, but not seriously ill, being accommodated in the modular accommodation.
Those in need of more intensive treatment will remain in the main hospital.
Now, the Sunday Independent has learned these specially designed prefab units could be used for a revolutionary health care approach in a range of other areas.
In a statement, the HSE confirmed that while the "primary requirement" of the units is to provide for "inpatient accommodation", its procurement process included the provision of prefabs for "other temporary hospital facilities".
These include "mobile" catheterisation laboratories (or cath labs), as well as the provision of theatre, mortuary, acute medical assessment units and day ward facilities.
This new accommodation option could be used to cope with "whatever need may arise in the future".
A well-placed source explained: "Manufacturers make different types of modular units, with different internal set-ups, to cater for whatever the need is."
However, this latest radical effort to tackle the overcrowding crisis is likely to cause deep unease among certain patients, particularly the elderly.
Internal correspondence also reveals the creation of this form of 'patient hotel' will not come cheap - even before the first prefab has been erected.
'Enabling works', a generic term to describe the preparation of a pre-construction site, for the erection of a new temporary facility in the South Tipperary General Hospital, will cost up to €800,000.
This work is expected to be completed in November.
In the meantime, a specially designed CT Unit at the hospital will also be used to try and ease ongoing accommodation pressures.
Latest figures from the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation reveal that nationally some 9,459 hospital patients were on trolleys in March.