Galway politicians react to overcrowding crisis at UHG

Galway daily news Eugene Murphy elected to the Seanad

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According to the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), Galway was the second most overcrowded hospital in the state for the month of October.

INMO has laid the blame of overcrowding on the understaffing of nurses. INMO claim this is casued by insufficient pay for nurses and midwives.

As a result, INMO is requesting a 12% pay increase across the board for Union members. If this request isn’t granted INMO may decide strike action.

But what do our politicians and local representatives think about the recent overcrowding figures and a possible nurses strike.

Eugene Murphy – Fianna Fáil 

Eugene Murphy lambasted last month’s figures as ‘disgraceful irrespective of who’s in power’.

The Roscommon-Galway TD stated a proportion of the problem can be attributed to there being no bed capacity in UHG and that someone needs to be brave enough to address this by increasing capacity.

The TD alluded to Portinculla Hospital in Ballinasloe having a similar problem.

Although approval for a new 50 bed unit for the Ballinasloe hospital has been given the green light, the TD is still waiting on the government to approve of it.

Murphy explained to Galway Daily how another big factor generating the overcrowding crisis in UHG was the Fine Gael/Labour Government’s decision to close the A&E in Roscommon.

The TD claimed that there was up to 10,000 people going to Roscommon A&E every year and that it’s closure was ‘outrageous’ considering € 18 million had been invested in the A&E.

To add to this, Eugene expressed his dismay that the A&E was closed without a HIQUA Inspection.

Eugene Murphy said that although he might not support a 12% pay increase across the board there is still a need to increase the pay of nurses.

This is due to them having ‘suffered dramatically’ from the fallout of the recession. The TD declared how the state took in nearly € 51 billion in tax last year and could surely use a proportion of this to incentivise nurses to stay here and not emigrate.

The TD feels INMO would only strike as a last resort.

The Fianna Fáil TD maintained that health was a difficult issue for any government while also outlining his belief that ‘we can’t provide the bare minimum in relation to health’.

The TD commented how if Fianna Fáil is to return to power there needs to be a complete change in health policy formulation.

Niall O’Tuathail – Social Democrats

Speaking to Galway Daily, O’Tuathail asserted how the hospital crisis was only going to get worse unless there is urgent investment in primary care.

The Social Democrats activist described this as meaning more GP’s, community nurses and other staff like physios and diagnostic staff.

O’Tuathail called for a model where teams are set up specifically for frail elderly people to keep them healthy in homes for longer and avoiding unnecessary trips to A&E. O’Tuathail claimed this model is used in the NHS where he does a lot of work on reform, and if applied in Ireland, could ‘make a real dent in the trolley crisis’.

The Galway City based activist is alarmed of the ‘terrible conditions’ healthcare staff are working in and went on to say how morale is at an all time low.

O’Tuathail expressed his solidarity to nurses explaining how they had every right to be ‘fed up’ with how the system is working.

O’Tuathail criticized the government for not investing in ‘Sláintecare’ which he says was the ‘first cross-party plan for the health system’ initially proposed by Róisin Shortall of the Social Democrats. O’Thuathail firmly believes Proper investment in this facility would go a ‘long way’ in giving staff more hope that the service will not be in crisis forever.

Joe Loughnane – People Before Profit

Joe Loughnane expressed his sympathy for nurses who he believes are dealing with a ‘creaking’ health system while working longer hours for less pay.

The City based People Before Profit representative advocated his unwavering support for a future nurses strike as ‘their demands have been consistently ignored by a government that promotes outsourcing’.

Loughnane, who has been selected as the Galway West People Before Profit candidate for the next general election, proclaimed a need for a health service which is free at the point of use and available to everyone.

Loughnane reaffirmed his belief that health care is a right and access to it should be determined by ‘how sick one is not the size of one’s wallet’.

The City based activist spoke of the necessity to develop ‘our capacity for preventative medicine’ which he says in the long run will pay for itself.

Loughnane addressed the problem of bed capacity by offering his solution to move 21,000 beds nationally to increase capacity using compulsory purchase orders on private facilities required as part of increasing the number of public beds.

Loughnane emphasized his disgust at hospitals being overcrowded with nurses who are overworked.

To take the burden off hospitals the future General Election candidate recommended the creation of a network of community primary care centres alongside free GP care.

Noel Grealish – Independent

Noel Grealish described the Emergency Department at UHG as being no longer fit for purpose.

Grealish called on the government to establish a minor injuries unit at Merlin Park Hospital, which could treat things like broken bones, dislocations, sprains, strains, wounds, scalds and minor burns.

The independent TD outlined his assumption that a minor injuries unit would be a very simple solution to the ongoing problem of so many people being forced to spend nights on trolleys.

The Galway West TD talked about how he has been consistently proposing a minor injuries unit ‘time after time’ in the Dáil for a number of years.

Grealish said he raised the idea during Leaders Questions and the Taoiseach agreed that there was a very strong case for such a unit in Galway and promised to discuss it with the Minister for Health and the HSE.

The TD went on to say how UHG caters for well over 60,000 patients a year but three out of every four of those end up being treated and discharged without the need to be admitted to hospital.

He then used this figure to demonstrate how effective a minor injuries unit could be in directing people away from the Emergency Department, easing pressure on beds and staff, who ‘are under severe strain every day of the week’.

Grealish is of the opinion that a minor injuries unit could be up and running in Merlin Park within a ‘matter of months’. He says this would play a valuable role in speeding up treatment times.

Noel Grealish expressed his disappointment that it takes more than five and a half hours on average from the time a patient with a minor injury is first seen until they are discharged from the Emergency Department at University Hospital Galway.

Grealish compares this scenario with Roscommon where people are being ‘seen, treated and discharged from the minor injuries unit in less than an hour’.

He then complained that there are eleven minor injuries units dotted around the country and Galway is the only city without one. ‘Dublin, Limerick and Cork cities all have them, and there’s even another two in Cork County’.

Back in March the Taoiseach told Grealish in the Dáil that there was merit in the suggestion that minor injuries unit’s are effective seeing as how they work in Dublin, Limerick and Cork.

Grealish declared that we need action from the Government now.