€9.95m Approved For Theatre Upgrade At Ennis Hospital

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara has received confirmation from the HSE that a €9.95m capital budget allocation has been approved for a theatre upgrade at Ennis Hospital and that the project has already progressed to design stage.

UL Hospitals Group CEO Collete Cowan confirmed the news to Deputy McNamara in response to his representations on theatre utilisation rates at Ennis Hospital, University Hospital Limerick (UHL), Nenagh Hospital and St. John’s Hospital during the pandemic.

“While I very much welcome this long-awaited investment in theatre facilities in Ennis, I would like to see the project accelerated as figures given to me confirm the HSE’s pandemic response disproportionately impacted theatre usage at Ennis Hospital compared to other hospitals within the UL Hospitals Group,” commented Deputy McNamara.

2,021 procedures were carried out in Ennis during 2019, but this figure dropped by 56% to 897 in 2021. This compares to a 40% reduction at Nenagh Hospital (3,392 to 2,029), a 25% reduction at St. John’s Hospital in Limerick (4,091 to 3,086) and an 8% reduction in UHL (10,708 to 9,869) for the same periods.

“The HSE says the reduction in theatre usage in Ennis during 2021 can partly be attributed to the need to redeploy staff to UHL to support critical care and emergency care at different stages of the pandemic,” stated Deputy McNamara. “However, a general shortage of available anaesthetists and theatre nurses across the UL Hospitals Group also is a likely contributory factor. It is important the HSE redress this ongoing issue and that adequate staffing arrangements are put in place for Ennis.”

He continued, “I acknowledge that the UL Hospitals Group is taking actions to reduce waiting lists, particularly in relation to the longest waiters, while it also is referring urgent surgical and medical cases to private hospitals. It is essential however, that increasing theatre capacity and overall theatre usage levels be the primary methods of reducing the excessive backlog built up over the last two years.”

“Professor Brian Lenehan, the Chief Clinical Director of the UL Hospitals Group told a meeting of Clare County Council in December that the two theatres at Ennis Hospital would predominately continue to be for day-care surgery. Considering the excessive waiting lists in the Midwest, I would ask the UL Hospitals Group to revisit its position and consider late evening and overnight surgical cases at Ennis which would necessitate a reclassification of Ennis as a Model 3 Hospital.”

In a written response to Deputy McNamara’s questions on theatre usage in the Midwest, UL Hospitals Group CEO Collete Cowan said, “Virtual clinics are being used across our services as a means of identifying patients who can be progressed to in-person treatment, whether for diagnostic imaging, minor procedures, or full episodes of care.”

She continued, “The HSE has established a Scheduled Care Transformation Programme to ensure a sustained, system-wide transformation process that tackles the challenge of scheduled care waiting times, improves access to scheduled care services, and ensures the safe delivery of care in the context of the on-going pandemic.”