Cillian Sherlock, PA
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said a proposal for a national elective hospital in Dublin was not progressed as it was on a private site that “would have cost a lot of a lot of money”.
The Government has committed to establishing standalone national elective hospitals in Cork, Galway and Dublin.
The rationale for elective hospitals is that they cater for high-volume, relatively low-acuity cases.
The elective hospitals will be focused on providing day-case, GI endoscopy, minor operations, outpatient treatment and outpatient diagnostics services.
In December, the Government progressed planning of the development of hospitals in Cork and Galway but there was no announcement of a site for Dublin.
Speaking at the Oireachtas joint committee on health, Social Democrat TD Roisin Shortall said there seemed to be “backtracking” on the proposal.
Ms Shortall said: “Certainly there has been an inordinate delay in progressing that proposal.”
Mr Donnelly said there has been no divergence from the Sláintecare recommendations nor change of policy.
“I fully share your frustrations. It takes years longer than it should to build new hospitals in this country,” he said.
Mr Donnelly said the department is moving through the public spending code on the matter “quickly” but added the code was not fit for purpose.
Asked by Ms Shortall why there had been no progress on a site for Dublin, Mr Donnelly said review had recommended a site but there was “additional work required”.
“We didn’t agree that the Dublin site was the right one to go for.
“The proposal for Dublin was a private site that could have taken a long time to get and would have cost a lot of a lot of money.
“And the view within the department is one I share that I think has been expressed by members of the committee is that we should build on our own land wherever we have it.”
Mr Donnelly said a proposal for another site in Dublin would be on his desk “very shortly”.
The Minister was at the committee to discuss challenges in hospitals, including emergency departments, bed shortages and overcrowding.
Mr Donnelly told the committee he had visited hospitals and emergency departments where conditions “are not acceptable”.
“I’ve seen the distress overcrowding causes for patients, their families and our frontline staff,” he said.
Sinn Féin's health spokesperson David Cullinane said the number of people on hospital trolleys and on waiting lists were “going in the wrong direction”.
Mr Donnelly said progress is “under way”.
The Minister said there had been an 11 per cent reduction in patients waiting longer than the maximum waiting list target of between 10 and 12 weeks.
“In March, we launched the 2023 waiting list action plan as the next stage of our multiannual approach.
“The Government allocated €363 million to remove 1.66 million patients from the waiting lists, this is projected to result in a reduction of 10 per cent to the number of people on waiting lists.
“In the last month alone, we’ve seen a 5 per cent reduction in the number of people waiting over the 10 to 12-week targets.”
Fine Gael senator Martin Conway raised the issue of the number of people on trolleys at University Hospital Limerick, which he described as unacceptable.
Mr Donnelly agreed and said there will be a “very substantial” increase in bed capacity and services.
“They’ve asked for more capacity, they’re getting more capacity,” Mr Donnelly said.