Tuesday 17 September 2019

SUH in multi-euro million plans

Fine Gael Councillor Sinead Maguire outside Sligo Univeristy Hospital
Fine Gael Councillor Sinead Maguire outside Sligo Univeristy Hospital

Ciara Galvin

Plans to build a 48-bed modular unit at Sligo University Hospital has received a boost with the publication of the HSE's Capital Investment Plan.

The spending of just over €2 billion on health capital projects from 2019 to 2021 includes a number of Sligo-based projects.

Along with the building of the 48-bed unit at SUH, several other projects at the hospital will benefit from the announcement.

Among these include the provision of a diabetic centre, re-development of a ward block, the provision of an interventional radiology site; and an upgrade to the ophthalmology service with the development of a new eye treatment facility.

Cllr Sinéad Maguire has welcomed this investment programme which will see the first phase of the Governments 10-year capital investment programme.

She said, "This announcement is welcome news for the North West region and, having canvassed for many of them, I am delighted by the news.

Other services outside the hospital which will receive funding include

Nazareth House which will be refurbished including CAMHS and early intervention and audiology services.

The completion of Sligo acute Mental Health unit is also set to benefit from the capital fuinding, along with North Sligo Primary Care Centre; a new ambulance base; completion of CSSD unit and a new palliative care residential unit. There will also be a phased upgrade St John's community nursing unit.

Cllr Maguire continued, 'While there are other projects I had hoped would have received funding particularly the Cath Lab, but I remain optimistic that when the national review is completed this may also get the green light.'

Calls for a Cath Lab at the hospital have been ongoing for many years with local representatives saying people in the North West were being treated as 'second class citizens' due to the lack of this service.

The need for a permanent cath lab to help save the lives of heart attack victims was outlined by Dr Donal Murray, a consultant cardiologist at Sligo University Hospital as far back as 2012.

The nearest such centre is in Dublin or Galway - a two to three-hour drive time, too far to be of benefit for a heart attack patient in the northwest.

It has been voiced by many health professionals that a permanent cath lab would dramatically improve the quality of care of patients with cardiac conditions in Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal, north Roscommon, north Mayo and West Cavan.

Yesterday's (Monday) announcement of capital funding is phase one of the government's ten-year capital investment programme.

Between now and 2021, Fine Gael are planning to commit to 250 projects across the country, 480 new beds, 30 new primary care centres, 58 community nursing units, and significant investment in mental health and disability projects in the community, according to Maguire.

In the capital plan document, Minister for Health, Simon Harris said: "Healthcare delivery over the coming decade is changing to meet the needs of the Irish population, as more of us live longer lives.

"Project Ireland 2040 will see €10.9bn invested in our health & social care service over the next 10 years and this plan sets out the first phase up to 2021.

"Implementation of the Slaintecare Action Plan will make it easier to access health and social care services in the right place at the right time.

"Capital investment will play a key role in enhancing health and social care and driving reform," he added.

HSE chief executive Paul Reid said: "The HSE's primary focus must be on the experiences of the patients and all who engage with us.

"Healthcare estate is a key enabler for the delivery of a quality healthcare service. Modern infrastructure and equipment are a crucial part of the provision of a quality health service and ultimately a positive patient experience.

"Some €642m has been allocated in 2019 to continue the delivery of over 91 projects across the country and initiate another 73 projects for acute and non-acute services.

"Some 58 community nursing units are at planning/design stages and €85m has been allocated to deal with infrastructural risk, replacement of equipment and replacement of ambulances," he added.

Earlier this year The Sligo Champion reported that Sligo University Hospital created a record in 2018 of 4,183 people left on trolleys in the Emergency Department or other wards at the hospital last year

That figure was up from 2,406 in 2017 and up massively since 2006 where the number was 784.

Sligo's figure of 4, 183 in 2018 was higher than the yearly totals of big Dublin hospitals such as Beaumont (2,968); St Vincent's (3,773); St James's (2,025) and Connolly (3,569).

In a response earlier this year from SAOLTA, the hospital group which Sligo University Hospital belongs to, stated, "In 2018, 39,141 patients presented to the ED at Sligo University Hospital representing a 3.9% (+1,465 patients) increase compared to 2017.

The number of admitted patients through ED also rose by 4.3% resulting in increased demand for beds.

It continued, "The number of patients aged 75 and over presenting to ED and who need to be admitted to hospital for treatment, has been rising year on year."

The INMO blamed the crisis on low capacity and understaffing.

Although the most recent announcement of the cash injection into the hospital has been welcomed by many, the INMO has previously asked government to work with them to develop proposals that will resolve the recruitment and retention crisis in nursing in order to tackle trolley numbers and delays.

Speaking last year about the problems facing Sligo University Hospital, Consultant in emergency medicine at Sligo Emergency Department Dr Fergal Hickey said that in the short term, the hosputal needed more medical beds.

"A two-story modular block proposed for the front of the hospital would provide a short-term solution of 50 more beds."

However, Dr Hickey said the long-term and ideally the best solution for Sligo University Hospital was a new extension containing a new ED, new operating theaters, radiology department, ICU and High Dependency Unit, Surgical, Paediatric and Maternity wards.

The consultant estimated that these plans would cost between 100 to €110million.

Dr Hickey previously told The Sligo Champion that 350 patients, most elderly, were dying as a direct result of hospital overcrowding a year and said his own father died as he waited on a trolley in a Dublin hospital. He said in ten years, 3,500 people could die from the trolley crisis.

Welcoming the plan, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said, "This investment comes at a time of positive progress in our health service, despite the considerable challenges we still face.

Waiting times for operations and procedures at long last are going down. By the end of this year, the number of hospital beds will be back above 11,000 for the first time since 2009."

Adding, "By investing in better facilities, newer equipment and more bricks and mortar, we are building a health service to provide you with the care you need, when you need it."

Sligo Champion