Questions have been raised this week over the membership of the board of the newly-created West/North West Hospital Group, with one councillor claiming that the chosen representatives “have never even been in a public hospital”.
At a meeting of the HSE West Regional Health Forum this week, Chairman Padraig Conneely said that board was drawn from highly successful businesspeople, who were regularly in the public eye, and questioned their suitability for the position.
The non-executive members of the group include Claregalway GP Dr Brendan Day, Cobwebs owner Phyllis McNamara, Volvo Ocean Race Chairman and former Cold Chon MD John Killeen, NUI Galway President Jim Browne and Creganna Tactx Medical CFO Zubair Javeed, prompting Cllr Conneely to tell CEO Bill Maher that he didn’t think “any of them had been in a public hospital, they would be going to the Galway Clinic”.
“Where is the common touch? Why don’t you have a farmer on there, or someone unemployed? It doesn’t have the proper mix,” he said.
Mr Maher responded by saying that the members had been chosen as a result of their competency in several disciplines and that some members had spent “a lot of time both working and as a patient in public hospitals”. He added that the experience and background stood the new hospital Group “in excellent stead”.
He also branded Cllr Conneely’s comments “a bit disingenuous” as the members were “ordinary people like ourselves”.
A presentation on the new grouping, which will see Sligo Regional Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital and Mayo General Hospital join University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon Hospital, also drew concerns over the possible downgrading of smaller hospitals in the future, including the potential closure of A&E units.
However, Mr Maher said that he was “very serious” about his commitment to all hospitals within the Group and the closure of A&E units was not currently a consideration as there was “no capacity” at acute hospitals in the area. He went on to add that major successes over the past year had put the West in a “unique position” to lead the roll-out of the new health network and would result in more autonomy at local level.
He also earmarked group integration, meeting HIQA standards, meeting waiting list targets and reducing trolley waits for patients as key priorities for the year ahead.
The meeting was informed that there are currently 31,824 patients on the outpatient waiting list at Galway University Hospitals, with over 4,000 people awaiting treatment in the orthopaedic and ear, nose and throat departments. HSE West also confirmed that almost €14m is still owed to University Hospital Galway by private insurance companies.