Deputy Connolly’s disbelief at Minister Harris’ failure to deal with the request for a new hospital and his failure to visit Merlin Park and, in particular, to see first-hand the ambulance service accommodation with regard to which the most serious concerns have been raised.

While welcoming Minister Harris’ visit to Galway Deputy Connolly says his announcement that there is money for the design stage of the new A&E is nothing new. Indeed in response to a question from Deputy Connolly the Minster confirmed this situation in the Dáil many weeks ago. So the Minster came to Galway to reiterate what we already knew and to allow photo opportunities for himself and government TDs.

It is abundantly clear that either deliberately or through inexperience Minister Harris continues to fail to grasp the enormity of what is required: that is immediate confirmation that funding will be made available for a new A&E as the current one is not fit for purpose. Moreover, the Clinical Director of the hospital and senior management have confirmed that the hospital itself is not fit for purpose. Indeed they set this out in a written submission to the Minister in mid-December 2016 and it has also been clarified that the lack of capacity is the number one factor on the risk register.

In view of this urgent, dangerous and unacceptable situation what is being asked of the Minster by the Clinical Director of the hospital is to give the go ahead now for an options appraisal process in relation to a new hospital. Yet, extraordinarily given the circumstances the Minster hasn’t made a single statement on this issue.

Moreover, the Minster’s failure to look at the ambulance services at Merlin Park also beggars belief. This service was moved to Merlin Park on the firm assurance that the move would be temporary for 6 months to allow for the construction of a car park in the regional hospital. That temporary location has now lasted almost three years with the essential ambulance service being provided from totally inadequate buildings. The staff of approximately 30 work from containers that are not fit for purpose. Given that they are what they are, i.e. containers, many issues have arisen in relation to health and safety, security and extremes of temperature.

That this essential ambulance service would have been left in this position for almost three years is simply not acceptable. Deputy Connolly said that her understanding was that this was clearly to be a temporary, short-term measure which has become unsustainable. In this regard Deputy Connolly said she has raised the matter on more than one occasion in the Dáil and most recently in a question and answer situation with the Minster for Health. In that interchange Minister Harris confirmed quite honestly that he wasn’t au fait with the ambulance situation but that he would enquire into the matter and revert to Deputy Connolly. In this context his failure to visit the Merlin Park site is particularly unacceptable.

What is needed now is clarification from the Minster and the Health Executive West on the status of the plan to provide proper accommodation for this essential ambulance service.

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