Sunday 1 February 2015

Investigation launched into how emergency department almost flooded for second time in a year

Greg Harkin and Sarah Stack

Published 06/08/2014 | 08:40

Letterkenny Fire Service tried to relieve the flood water at Letterkenny General Hospital last night as it flooded again following heavy rain. Photo Brian Mc Daid
Letterkenny Fire Service tried to relieve the flood water at Letterkenny General Hospital last night as it flooded again following heavy rain. Photo Brian Mc Daid
Staff and emergency crews at Letterkenny General Hospital as thy try to revert the water from the new emergency Department which was flood one year ago. Photo Brian McDaid
Firefighter fight the flood water at Letterkenny General Hospital as the new emergency department flooded exactly one year on in Letterkenny. Photo Brian McDaid
Staff and emergency crews at Letterkenny General Hospital as thy try to revert the water from the new emergency Department which was flood one year ago. Photo Brian McDaid

An investigation has been launched into how a hospital came close to a flooding disaster for the second time in a year.

Department of Health officials ordered a probe after torrential rain swept across the north west last night and sent water cascading into Letterkenny General Hospital.

The unit was closed for three hours however no serious damage was caused this time, largely thanks to hospital workers sand-bagging entrances as water poured into the grounds from the nearby N56 road.

Forecasters have warned there will be more heavy showers over the west and north west during today, but nothing like last night.

“The rest of the country should be dry,” said Met Eireann’s Deirdre Lowe.

“Tomorrow will be a similar sort of day with some showers and scattered showers mostly in the west and north.

“On Thursday night there will be more widespread heavy showers and on Friday the east of the country will have heavy downpours again.”

A massive thunder storm hit north Donegal last night, closing roads and causing widespread chaos. More than 40mm of rain fell in a 15-minute period, followed by several more heavy downpours.

The flash floods caused damage to homes across north Donegal last night with roads closed in Ramelton, Illistrin, Rathmullan, Stranorlar and Lifford.

In Letterkenny, the road and hospital car park adjacent to the Emergency Department became flooded just after 7pm and a low level of water leaked into the reception and administrative areas.

The emergency department re-opened late last night after being closed for three hours.

Last year’s flood which caused €34M worth of damage was caused by water from a poorly-maintained culvert. A digger is since kept on site to keep a tributary clear which runs through the hospital grounds.

Engineers involved in the new build, which only reopened earlier this year, will be on site during the day as a probe gets underway.

Seán Murphy, General Manager, Letterkenny General Hospital, stated: “Our investigation is at an early stage. It appears that the interim flood management measures worked well as the culvert was kept clear and other steps such as sandbagging of vulnerable areas were put into place.

“We will publish the conclusions of our investigation - as we did with the flood management strategy and two engineering reports from the previous incident - and we will review the flood management strategy in light of the new findings.

 “We are not going to speculate as to what these findings will be. We will publish the result of the investigation as soon as is feasible. More than anyone else in Donegal, we want answers.

 “I want to acknowledge the hospital staff, the ambulance service, the staff at Sligo Regional and Altagelvin Hospitals, our local GPs, the fire service, the council and the Gardaí for their cooperation.

“We regret any inconvenience caused to patients and their families.

The hospital’s A&E staff went off call for three hours from 8pm to 11pm to expedite the clean up after which services returned to normal.

Clinical areas and hospital services in general were not affected, said the HSE.

A full investigation and report into the cause of last year's flooding, which wiped out 70pc of the hospital’s capacity, is still being compiled by the HSE.

Meanwhile Donegal County councillor Gerry McMonagle, who lives close to the hospital, has demanded an independent inquiry into the design plan of the new wing of the hospital which is built in a hollow.

Irish Independent

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