THE proposed relocation of the University Maternity Hospital to Dooradoyle looks some years away after the Department of Health cautioned Limerick City and County Council that there was only “limited funding available” for new capital projects up to 2018.
But the HSE could at least move to undertake a cost-benefit analysis in the coming months.
That is according to David O’Connor, private secretary to the former Minister for Health James Reilly, who was responding to a resolution from councillors to expedite the relocation of the Maternity from the Ennis Road to the main campus of University Hospital Limerick.
It is considered best practice for maternal and child health to locate specialist maternity hospitals beside major acute hospitals and the strategic plan for the UL Hospitals Group (2014-2016) states that the relocation is a “priority” for management.
But Mr O’Connor’s reply to Limerick City and County Council, dated June 30, holds out little prospect of this happening any time soon.
“It is important to note that, as with all capital projects, this project must be considered within the overall capital envelope available to the health service,” he states.
“There is limited funding available for new projects over the period 2014-2018 given the level of commitments and the costs to completion already in place,” he goes on to state.
Mr O’Connor then outlines the “significant investment” made at University Maternity Hospital Limerick over the previous 12 months.
This had included “€200,000 for upgrading the water services plant; €210,000 for the installation of the National Imaging Medical Information System; €230,00 for replacement equipment and €120,000 for the upgrading of doctor’s on-call accommodation”.
On maternity services in Limerick and any potential move, Mr O’Connor stated that the HSE expects a review of the project brief would be “completed over the next few months and the cost-benefit analysis would then be carried out”.
The reply is unlikely to assuage councillors who in March unanimously adopted a motion urging the HSE to speed the process up.
The current hospital building is over 50 years old and regarded by many of its medical professionals as outdated and unfit for purpose.
Former Labour councillor Tomas Hannon told the council in March that the hospital - one of the country’s busiest - had no intensive care or high dependency units. And the lack of a blood bank on site was a risk to the safety of women given the frequency of haemorrhages in childbirth, Mr Hannon said.