'We can’t build a 500 or 600-bed hospital overnight': Action urged over proposed elective hospital in Cork

Progress on the much-anticipated elective hospital in Cork has remained slow, much to the frustration of local politicians.
'We can’t build a 500 or 600-bed hospital overnight': Action urged over proposed elective hospital in Cork

A sign at the entrance to St. Stephen's Hospital, Sarsfield's Court, a potential site for the new elective hospital. Picture: Denis Minihane. 

A PUBLIC-private partnership should be considered to ensure progress is made on the proposed elective hospital, a Cork TD has suggested.

Progress on the much-anticipated elective hospital in Cork has remained slow, much to the frustration of local politicians.

Fine Gael TD Colm Burke said all the stakeholders need to “think outside the box” to come up with solutions to the impasse. 

"We should seriously consider doing a public-private partnership on this. Developers could build a brand new hospital in Cork [that] they could design, build, finance, and sell back to the HSE over a period of time. The advantage to this is that the financing is spread over a period of time and the State becomes the owner of it,” he said.

The Cork North Central TD said another problem is that there are three players involved in the process: the Department of Health, Sláintecare, and the HSE.

“I’m concerned about the whole process in the government departments about how long it takes to get a project done. The problem is you have three players in the field. You have the Department of Health, Sláintecare, and the HSE. The HSE made a detailed submission to Sláintecare in 2019 about what they wanted. We need to be decisive on this.” said Mr Burke.

“We can’t build a 500 or 600-bed hospital overnight. We have a greenfield site in Sarsfield’s Court. The great advantage of this site is that you are not limited and you are unlikely to have any major planning concerns compared to any place else. We should be planning to build block by block.

“First of all, we need to identify the site. We then need to say are there people out there who are prepared to design, build, and finance it? I guarantee you it will be done in three years.”

Health service in crisis

Sinn Féin TD for Cork North Central Thomas Gould said the health service in Cork is in “crisis” and at risk of breaking down. “This hospital was supposed to be operational by 2024 but it’s still not clear if that will be happening.

“In the last figures I got, there were over 75,000 people on waiting lists in hospitals in Cork City and county. This figure has probably grown given the current strain on hospitals. This isn’t just about Cork wanting or needing a new hospital. This is about the health service in Cork being in crisis and at risk of breaking down.”

Mr Gould said the hospital should be located on the northside. 

“I’m asking that this hospital is on the northside of Cork city because the people of the northside have no hospital because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael closed down the North Infirmary and the Orthopaedic. I’m asking that it be a full elective inpatient surgery hospital open 24/7, not the part-time hospital planned.”

'We need it'

GP and former lord mayor John Sheehan, of Blackpool Bridge Surgery, said a decision is required. “The sooner a decision is made, the better. We need to know what kind of elective hospital it is going to be. At the moment Sláintecare is proposing a day procedure for Cork,” he said.

“If that is the case then the South Infirmary and the Mercy will continue as hospitals and they won’t be merging into an acute elective hospital.

“A lot of the development they are currently doing would suggest that they are going to continue into the future. We need to make a decision because a lot of other developments are dependent on it.”

Dr Sheehan said the elective hospital is needed to cater for the growing population in Cork City and county. He also highlighted that patients will be travelling from all over Munster for specialised treatment. “The difficulty is we have the HSE, Sláintecare, and the Department of Health involved and it is not clear who ultimately is making this decision.

“We need it. People come from all over Munster for specialised treatment. We are serving the guts of 1m people for all the specialities. That has to be factored in. It is a hospital for the whole region.”

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