Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon/Galway Eugene Murphy has warned that bed space and overall capacity is reaching critical levels at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe and he has called for a new 50 bed unit at the hospital which is shovel ready to be given the green light by Government as a matter of urgency.

Deputy Murphy raised the matter under Questions on Promised Legislation in the Dáil last week.

“The programme for Government committed to targeting waiting lists in our hospitals. Unfortunately, they have not improved. They are worse than they have ever been in the history of the State. I refer to Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe in my constituency. A unit with 50 beds is shovel-ready and ready to go. At the request of management and staff, I recently visited that hospital. Despite the outstanding service of the staff, the conditions are appalling. It is a €17 million project and everything is ready. It is simply waiting for the green light from the Government,” said Deputy Murphy.

Deputy Murphy met with hospital management in recent weeks and he noted that bed space and overall capacity was reaching critical levels. “Bed space is at critical levels in Portiuncula Hospital- there is simply not enough room with bulky equipment left lying in hallways and corridors as staff try to manoeuvre their way around while patients are squeezed into wards – there are only a very small number of single rooms in the hospital. This new 50 bed unit which is shovel ready would help alleviate the problems by freeing up space and allowing patients ready for discharge to be moved to a transfer ward and free up valuable bed space in the hospital and this new unit would also help alleviate overcrowding in the A& E as more bed space in hospital wards would be freed up,” said Deputy Murphy.

“The Government, blatantly closed the emergency department in Roscommon town a number of years ago. It was a brand new building that cost €8.5 million and it was closed, which was an outrageous decision. Portiuncula Hospital then became the emergency department for patients from Roscommon. However it is alarming to note that in the past four years there has been no extra funding for Portiuncula A&E despite the fact that Roscommon A&E closed.

“Portiuncula Hospital is a Level 3 hospital- stats provided to be by the hospital show that on average year 25,613 patients present to the emergency department in Ballinasloe and that figure is set to go over 28,000 this year. There were roughly 1,500 people per month presenting to the A&E in Ballinasloe but after Roscommon A& E closed that number rose to over 2,000 per month but yet there was no extra funding for Portiuncula Hospital. This is a busy hospital – on an average year there are some 13,099 inpatients, 54, 513 outpatients attendances, 1,664 births, 4, 267 cardia investigations, 7,677 day cases, 44,573 radiology examinations, 210,373 laboratory tests and some 372,300 meals served to patients and staff. Portiuncula Hospital serves a population of some 410,000 – it is also a major employer in the region with some 850 staff but that number is closer to 1,000 when you take into account part-time staff etc.

“It is important that this new 50 bed unit at Portiuncula Hospital proceeds immediately. I have tabled a number of parliamentary questions with the Minister for Health on this matter and I would urge the Minister to give the green light to this project without any further delay,” concluded Deputy Murphy.