Tuesday, September 03, 2019

WITH just under four months left in the year, the Government finally announced the HSE’s 2019 Capital Plan on Monday (September 2). Unfortunately, it revealed nothing new or noteworthy for Waterford and the South East.

The press releases issued by politicians on Monday were interesting and revealed four different perspectives of how Waterford should welcome the plan and its projects therein.

With regards to University Hospital Waterford, the projects listed are: (1) Provision of a second Cath Lab at University Hospital Waterford. This was announced last October but it was still important to see it in the Capital Plan. The project is considerably behind schedule and is currently on stage 2a of a 9 stage process. (2) A new mortuary for University Hospital Waterford. This is the second time that the mortuary has appeared on a Government Capital Plan. We are told that work is expected to commence before the end of this year. (3) Development of the new block at UHW including the new palliative care unit. This has already been built. (4) Development of an Ophthalmology Unit. The line in the plan states that, “There will be a focus on Ophthalmology services in 2019/2020 with projects in Waterford and South Infirmary Cork being progressed. Provision has not been made for this project to start in 2019 so it is hoped that it will happen in 2020. (5) 100 ‘new’ hospital beds. It is understood that these are not actually new beds, but the already announced upgrading of St Patrick’s Hospital.

Minister John Halligan, Senator Paudie Coffey, Deputy Mary Butler and Deputy David Cullinane all welcomed the announcement of the plan.

Minister Halligan said that the provision of the cath lab in the plan “shows that the government is taking the people of Waterford and the South East’s demands for improved cardiac services seriously.”

He commended the Government for “delivering on these key pieces of infrastructure, as well as investing in Waterford’s community nursing units” and said that he would be “monitoring developments closely”.

Senator Paudie Coffey welcomed the plan, saying that important projects were included “despite local fears that they might not appear because of the Children’s hospital debacle.”

He added that he is “lobbying behind-the-scenes to speed up the crucial appointments of staff for the new Palliative Care Unit at UHW”.

Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane welcomed the eventual publication of the plan but said that they were “largely a restatement of previous commitments”.

“Progression of the second Cath Lab and funding for the new mortuary were announced months ago and there is little additionally in the capital plan. However, these are vital projects and I look forward to them progressing and being delivered as quickly as possible,” he said. “I will go through this plan carefully to ensure that all of these announcements are followed through and delivered. We have had far too many announcements in the past that did not materialize. I welcome the ongoing commitment to a second Cath Lab and the new mortuary but these need to be finalized and delivered.”

Fianna Fáil TD Mary Butler said that the inclusion of the cath lab was a “testament to the determination of the local Oireachtas members who have been pushing so hard to get it over the line”.

“I am concerned that the National Children’s Hospital project overrun will have a detrimental impact on the delivery timelines of some of these capital projects and I, along with my party colleagues, will be keeping pressure on Fine Gael to ensure that these important projects are delivered on time and within budget,” Deputy Butler said.

PRO of the Health Equality for the South East Campaign Group, Cllr Matt Shanahan said that the Capital Plan was “completely underwhelming from a South East perspective”.

“Regional health services and in particular those at UHW are dealing with record patient numbers awaiting beds, an ongoing recruitment embargo stagnating any possibility of opening any floor of the new Dunmore Wing or Palliative Care Centre, 12 months of ongoing failure to progress a prioritised consultant cardiology appointment and the deferral of patient procedures because of zero increase to the service budget of the most underfunded Model 4 hospital in the country. Inactions such as these, speak far more loudly than a trumpeted plan published now more than 12 months overdue!” Cllr Shanahan said.

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