The construction of a new emergency department for University Hospital Galway could still be a long way off, as the project is only in its early design stages.
Galway Senator Seán Kyne raised the question of the long gestating new A&E for University Hospital Galway in the Seanad.
He asked why planning permission has not been sought for the new emergency department, and if Minister of State Frank Feighan could comment on when plans would be lodged.
A temporary extension to the existing emergency department is due to be completed early next year, which will provide additional space, including segregated waiting and treatment areas, isolation rooms, additional resuscitation spaces and support accommodation.
But Seán Kyne said that as far back as 2015, it was already noted by then Taoiseach Enda Kenny that the department at UHG was not fit for purpose.
“We have had ministerial visits to Galway, where we have been told that planning permission would be lodged prior to Christmas 2018.”
“The specifications may have changed to a degree since then in the fit-out of the building, but I do not see the rationale for the planning permission not having been lodged.”
“Where is the design at? Is it nearly complete and ready to go? What is the stumbling block,” Seán Kyne asked.”
“This has been in every national plan for God knows how many years, yet no planning permission has yet been lodged.”
“I have said previously, and I reiterate today, nothing can be built without valid planning permission and valid planning permission cannot be obtained without first lodging an application.”
Minister of State at the Department of Health Frank Feighan said that delivering a new A&E is a “complex project” which remains at an early design stage, and must follow the public spending code.
“The full accommodation scope for the entire development has now been agreed following an internal HSE review and it is now proposed to progress the full block as one single project.”
“The proposed project will accommodate a new permanent emergency department, including clinical areas, ancillary support services and acute surgical and medical assessment units.”
“It will also accommodate the labour and delivery unit, operating theatres, a maternity day assessment unit and foetal assessment unit.”
“Other proposed facilities will include a neonatal unit, ante-natal and post-natal inpatient departments, a paediatric day ward and an inpatient ward.”
There is no fixed timeline yet for the submission of a planning application, the Minister said. Enabling works must still be carried out on the site before any main construction can go ahead.
He added that all capital works projects must go through multiple public spending approval stages.
Senator Kyne said that it was “depressing” to see again that the project was in its early design stages, when it was previously assured that a planning application would be lodged by Christmas 2018.
“Then it was to be February 2019, then May 2019 and then 2019. It is now July 2021 and the project is not progressing and there is no indication of when it will be progressing.”
Minster Feighan said that he would convey to Health Minister Stephen Donnelly that the project needs to be progressed quickly.