*Cathal Crowe. Photograph: John O’Neill

A CLARE GOVERNMENT TD has said it is inevitable that an additional accident and emergency department will be needed in the Mid-West.

Since the downgrading of Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals in 2009, just one A&E has served the counties of Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.

Clare TD, Cathal Crowe (FF) stated, “With a population of half a million people all funnelled through one A&E department, I believe it’s inevitable with the expected population rises over the coming years, that an additional A&E department is required here.

“At the moment, Dublin with a population of 1 million people is served by eight A&E departments. Our region, comprising of Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, has a population half that size with just one A&E. Day after day, the limitations of UHL’s A&E are being evidenced. Whilst there are many positive things happening at UHL each day, there’s no escaping the fact that lives are needlessly being lost and many patients are having negative outcomes. None of the blame can be laid on the incredible nurses, doctors and healthcare assistants who are being extremely overworked,” the Meelick native said.

He described the 2009 move to downgraded Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s hospitals as “a woeful political decision” and one that “has haunted our region every day since”.

On Monday, members of the Oireachtas Health Committee including Deputy Crowe and Senator Martin Conway (FG) met senior HSE management including Bernard Gloster, Sandra Broderick and Professor Colette Cowan at UHL.

Deputy Crowe outlined, “The subject of Ennis General Hospital repeatedly came up during this meeting and all of the medical professionals present agreed that it would be unsafe to immediately reopen an A&E in Ennis, because the hospital lacks permanent bed space along with clinical capacity in the realms of cardiology, neurology and more. I accept their analysis and we must be at all times guided by health experts – but I have also made the point, vociferously to all present and additionally to Minister Stephen Donnelly, that the situation cannot remain static.

“Whilst the immediate focus has naturally to be on UHL, it would be remiss of us not to plan for capacity building beyond the hospital in Limerick. I am glad, arising from Monday’s meeting, that Bernard Gloster, CEO of the HSE, has instructed Sandra Broderick, HSE Midwest Regional Executive Officer, to lead up a team, examining the potential for capacity building in Ennis and Nenagh.

“As a nation, we confidently speak about Irish unification in the future. We set ambitious targets for housing provision and meeting the educational needs of our children as they grow older. We must now also strategise for additional hospital upgrading in the Midwest region beyond UHL. I consider the term ‘centre of excellence’ to be an almost dirty and offensive word in our region at this time, but equally, talks of upgrading hospitals cannot be considered to be a ‘dirty word’ or a no-go area,” he said.

Measures announced by Minister Donnelly during his visit to UHL last week were welcomed by the Clare TD. Among the measures confirmed by Minister Donnelly Is the provision to open the acute medical assessment unit in Ennis General, and those of Nenagh and St John’s, on a 24/7 basis. This will be introduced in three phases.

“I’m also very pleased to see that 20 beds are being made available in Clare for transition and step-down care, as well as rehab – and this is on a permanent basis. This is something I hear time and time again: people who are well enough to leave hospital but not well enough to go home are stuck in limbo and taking up a bed that is needed by a seriously unwell patient. I’m also pleased to see that the second 96-bed block for UHL will be accelerated to increase capacity long-term at the hospital,” he concluded.

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If you’re here, you care about County Clare. So do we. Did you rely on us for Covid-19 updates, follow our election coverage, or visit The Clare Echo every week for breaking news and sport? The Clare Echo invests in local journalism and we want to safeguard its future in our county. By becoming a subscriber you are supporting what we do, will receive access to all our premium articles and a better experience, while helping us improve our offering to you. Subscribe to clareecho.ie and get the first six months for just €3 a month (less than 75c per week), and thereafter €8 per month. Cancel anytime, limited time offer. T&Cs Apply. www.clareecho.ie.

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