Saturday 20 October 2018

Three new hospitals in health's €10.9bn - but no timeline on projects

Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Three hospitals - in Dublin, Cork and Galway - will be dedicated to treating patients on waiting lists and providing quicker access to scans.

The new hospitals are the highlight of the National Development Plan's €10.9bn injection for the health service.

It also promises 2,600 more beds to relieve overcrowding in A&E departments.

But the lack of a definite timeline for the projects in the 10-year plan casts a shadow over the blueprint's tempting glimpse of the future.

Asked how soon the proposals would become bricks and mortar, a health official said: "As with a 10-year plan proposals are an early stage and will require further appraisal, planning,design and tender before a firm timeline can be established."

Questioned on how many of the 2,600 hospital beds will be ready for next winter's trolley crisis, the official said that Health Minister Simon Harris plans to "frontload" some of the development plan's extra beds before November this year.

The number will follow a HSE recommendation.

The plan pledges a new hospital for Cork, and various new units in other hospitals, including a ward block in Limerick and an A&E department in Galway.

Another 4,500 long-term and short-term public nursing home beds will be added.

It contains a range of projects already under way - including the National Children's Hospital, the new national mental hospital and the rebuild of Letterkenny Hospital.

More primary care centres and mental health facilities, including a 40-bed residential unit in Portlaoise, are included.

It is unclear if consultants will be allowed to treat private patients in the new hospitals for waiting list patients.

The advantage of these facilities is that they would have no A&E units so beds can be ring-fenced for surgery.

Commenting on the plan Deputy Billy Kelleher warned unless patients get treated quicker it will be a failure.

Tom Ryan, of the Irish Hospital Consultants Association, said 2,600 beds over 10 years will not be enough.

Simon Nugent, of the Private Hospitals Association, insisted the Government is sidestepping the urgency of the current crisis, saying private hospitals could deliver more quickly.

Irish Independent

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