Planning Sought For New €9.95m Theatre Complex At Ennis Hospital

A planning application has been submitted by the UL Hospitals Group for the development of a new €9.95m theatre complex at Ennis Hospital.

The news has been confirmed by the HSE in response to representations made by Independent Clare TD Michael McNamara about low theatre utilisation rates at Ennis Hospital compared to Nenagh Hospital.

The most recent available figures provided by the HSE to Deputy McNamara show that Nenagh Hospital’s elective theatre utilisation rate was 71% in April 2022 and 81% in May 2022 compared to 58% and 47% respectively at Ennis Hospital. The overall operation time (hours) recorded from January to May 2022 in Nenagh was 607 hours compared to just 237 hours in Ennis.

“Approved under the HSE’s Capital Programme the theatre upgrade will help address the shortfall, but it’s only one of a number of measures required to address the matter,” stated Deputy McNamara.

“The development of a theatre improvement programme is central to tackling low utilisation rates in Ennis, which is impacting waiting times for people seeking to undergo procedures,” he explained. “However, there is a range of other measures that can be undertaken to expand operations in Ennis which I have been assured are going to be adopted by the HSE following a Theatre Utilisation Review by Grant Thornton highlighting that scheduled care demand at UHL had a significant impact on utilisation in Ennis last year.”

Deputy McNamara continued, “As well as developing a new theatre complex in Ennis, the HSE has informed me that it is committed to developing clear and agreed measures, roles and processes for monitoring theatre performance and improvement, as well as the use of currently available data to devise average procedure times to feed into list planning. The HSE will also conduct a review of pre-operative assessment capacity and process, review the location and organisation of equipment, and review the causes of delays to turnaround times.”

In response to Deputy McNamara’s concerns about low utilisation rates of the theatre in Ennis during the first five months of 2022, the UL Hospitals Group cited industrial action by laboratory scientists resulting in samples not being processed and cases being deferred, cases deferred by the hospital due to the absence of key personnel such as a surgeon, patients not attending for their procedures, and the use of the Surgical Day Ward at Ennis Hospital as surge capacity for medical inpatients.

“It is unacceptable that key personnel such as surgeons are not rostered correctly to ensure permanent cover in Ennis nor is the ongoing situation of patient overflows from an overcapacity UHL continue to impact hospitals like Ennis and the patients who go there for procedures that they have waited for, in some cases, years. Nenagh clearly did not experience the same issue, which is borne out by the figures that have given to me. I would urge the HSE to expedite its plans, as put forward by Grant Thornton in its commissioned report, to remediate this issue,” concluded Deputy McNamara.