Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Bishop of Limerick says Ireland cannot depend on other countries to provide healthcare

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The healthcare system cannot rely on other countries to solve the hospital waiting list crisis, the bishop of Limerick has said as he launched a €210m plan to expand St John’s Hospital.

It was revealed last week that a new Spanish hospital will treat at least 1,500 Irish patients per year, who are stuck on long public waiting lists here.

The hospital, in Alicante, is a part of a healthcare agreement whereby patients are treated under the EU Cross Border Directive, with the HSE reimbursing people for the price of treatment abroad.

Launching a significant expansion plan for St John’s Hospital in Limerick, Bishop Brendan Leahy, chairman of the hospital’s board, said: “The future generations are calling us here today to do what we can to ensure that they won’t have to travel to Galway or Cork, or indeed Spain, to receive scheduled surgery.”

Bishop Leahy said it makes absolute sense to address shortcomings in the existing hospital services so people can get treated near their homes: 

We have the capacity on the site to do this in a region that clearly needs key solutions like this to help address pressures on the system.

Management at St John’s Hospital has unveiled a five-year expansion strategy, including a 150-bed on-site extension.

The proposed development will increase St John’s bed capacity from 89 to 200 and aims to deliver an additional 31,390 bed days per annum in the Limerick region.

A total of 667 additional jobs, via direct and indirect employment, are expected to be created, including 52 frontline clinician and support roles at St Johns, which currently employs 350 people.

The plan was developed by the UL Hospitals Group in consultation with local GPs.

“The proposal addresses the necessary capacity requirement to tackle public waiting lists by accommodating a very significant proportion of the scheduled care work in the region, and it provides solutions to the critical needs associated with the public waiting lists,” said a statement from the management.

Full-time emergency departments at St John’s Hospital, Ennis Hospital, Co Clare, and Nenagh Hospital, Co Tipperary, were downgraded in the last 15 years, with University Hospital Limerick coming under increased pressure from patient overcrowding.

Last month, the UL Hospitals Group said it accepted the findings of a damning report by Hiqa, which found that the “over-crowded and under-staffed emergency department posed a significant risk” to patients.