Site for new Cork hospital to be announced in October

Building public elective hospitals in Cork, Galway and Dublin under discussion to tackle long delays for patients.
Site for new Cork hospital to be announced in October

 Robert Watt said the 'final steps' have been taken to announce the new location for an elective hospital in Cork.

The chosen site for an elective hospital in Cork is now expected to be announced in October, ten months after submissions were sent in, the Oireachtas Health Committee heard on Wednesday.

Building public elective hospitals in Cork, Galway and Dublin has been under discussion as part of plans to tackle long delays for patients.

The urgency was reinforced by figures for Wednesday showing 88 people on trolleys in Cork University Hospital, a new record, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation said. Patients in University Hospital Limerick also faced significant delays with 77 people on trolleys there.

Department of Health secretary-general Robert Watt said they support these plans.

“We are almost there in terms of the final steps,” he told Fine Gael TD Colm Burke.

“The government has made a decision in principle. We are going back to government in the middle of October both in terms of Cork and Galway.” 

He said work on the public spending code with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is now complete.

“The evaluation is gone to the major projects advisory group. The government will, I’m sure, approve and give the green light in October. We need then to go to detailed design and procurement.” 

Capacity review

South/Southwest Hospital Group CEO Gerry O’ Dwyer also attended. This group of ten Munster hospitals includes Cork University Hospital and Waterford University Hospital.

He said a capacity review across the system is nearing completion. The group commissioned consultants with Archus, healthcare infrastructure specialists to examine current and future requirements, he said.

“We started in Waterford, that will be completed probably in the next two to three weeks,” he told Fianna Fáil senator Lorraine Clifford-Lee.

“We finished our report in Cork University Hospital, and likewise we finished the report in University Hospital Kerry. We will also be carrying out similar work in the South Infirmary, the Mercy, and the rest of the group of hospitals.” 

He said the reports will indicate demand over the next ten to fifteen years in the region.

“The report will be forwarded on by ourselves to the corporate team, and I think is going to be reviewed by the Board and if appropriate by the CEO,” he said.

“We have given a commitment we will share this with Oireachtas members in Waterford, Kerry, and in Cork, to take them through the various recommendations.” 

Recruitment challenges

Much of the hearing focused on recruitment challenges facing the HSE, despite the announcement on Tuesday of a budget boost, bringing the health budget to over €23bn.

Mr Watt acknowledged that in the past workforce planning was not carried out well, however, both he and HSE CEO Paul Reid defended recent increases in staffing numbers.

“In 2020 and 2021 we had the largest increases in those two years ever in the number of people in the health system, I think it was about five to six thousand each year,” he said.

“This year it is looking like 4,000 and a similar number next year. So over four years, there could be a net increase of maybe 20,000 in the health system.” 

Mr Reid highlighted changing demographics which are now impacting hospitals and community services, heightened by changes caused by Covid-19.

He said measures of frailty among older people shows that people aged over 76 now are frailer than people of a similar age were found to be during 2019.

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