A senior consultant at one of the country’s most regularly overcrowded hospitals has warned of “disaster” at the facility this winter after the HSE failed to allocate any of its 2016 budget for a hoped-for “patient hotel” in its winter initiative.
The winter plan published last week said that two options are being “considered” by the HSE to alleviate over-crowding at South Tipperary General Hospital: A “modular build extension” to the existing hospital and fitting out space in an area currently under construction.
“The HSE’s examination of patient hotel-type service will proceed in parallel,” the initiative states.
However, no money has been allocated for the proposal in this year’s funding, with €700,000 allocated for 2017.
Senior consultant at STGH Dr Paud O’Regan said he and the hospital were “bitterly disappointed” with the plan.
There were hopes that a 40-bed patient hotel could be in place by late October, but it is now widely accepted it will not happen this year and the HSE has yet to deal with “cost-benefit analysis, procurement issues, and planning/construction issues,” as it says itself in the winter initiative.
“We were confident that it would be announced in the winter initiative and had been assured by the minister of that,” said Dr O’Regan.
The hospital “hasn’t lost hope” that the patient hotel will happen, he said, but it will not be in time for this winter.
“We feel that the hospital will not be able to cope with the winter influx of patients, in view of the fact that we have run at 150% medical bed occupancy during the summer and, when the winter surge comes, we will not be able to cope.”
He blamed the HSE for not making a decision on the proposal. “Everybody agrees it’s needed but it’s the HSE that is holding it up. New ideas to them are like holy water to a vampire.” The consultant added: “We’re facing into a disaster.”
Independent TD Mattie McGrath yesterday accused fellow Independent TD for Tipperary Michael Lowry of “irresponsibly raising expectations” regarding the assignment of a patient hotel to Clonmel, following reports in August of a “deal” to deliver the project at STGH.
Mr Lowry, in a statement this week, said he spoke to Health Minister Simon Harris last Friday about the winter initiative.
“The minister reminded me that this is the first time that a HSE officialised document has formally referenced and included a patient hotel for Clonmel,” he said.
“He stated the initiative was still in the progression stage and the Health Service Executive were committed to progressing the unit in parallel with the upcoming ‘winter initiative’. It was originally intended to fast track this project but it is now accepted that because of the nature and scale of this modular unit planning will have to be sought and the unit subject to national procurement policy.
“The Minister has informed me that he was concerned in that context, that we are going to miss the ‘winter bulge’ activity in the hospital.”
The constituency’s other Independent TD, Seamus Healy, yesterday warned of “people power” returning to the streets of Clonmel if extra beds aren’t delivered at STGH, in reference to a protest march in 2010 over the future of the hospital.
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