Work stops on key project at Limerick Regional Hospital

Nick Rabbitts


Nick Rabbitts

WORK on a €13m extension at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital has been halted over fears of the spread of a potentially deadly organism.

WORK on a €13m extension at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital has been halted over fears of the spread of a potentially deadly organism.

Construction work has started on a new six-storey building will house a neurological centre, cystic fibrosis unit, and specialist breast and dermatology units, with Finance Minister Michael Noonan turning the sod.

The money for the development has come from a charitable consortium, which has gained backing from the JP McManus foundation.

However, Galway builders JJ Rhatigan & Company have pulled around 30 workers off its construction site in Dooradoyle, and closed it until the HSE acts to install filters, and seal up windows to prevent the Aspergillosis virus getting on site.

Ger Mullane, of JJ Rhatigan, says it is the HSE’s responsibility to install the filters, not his company’s.

The condition is carried by dust in the air. Common when demolitions are taking place, if building workers inhale the spore, it can cause a range of illnesses from coughs and fevers to chills, delirium, blood clots and failure of vital organs.

One of a number of construction projects at the regional hospital site, the works will see the demolition of the hospital’s existing canteen.

But Mr Mullane said with this now due to take place, the contractor has had no choice but to stop the work.

“When you carry out demolition works, you obviously create dust. The dust can, and usually does contain an organism called aspergillosis. When you seek excavation, or do demolition, you release this, and it can be contagious. People who have lung problems or breathing difficulties are susceptible to inhaling that spore. If you are working in a hospital environment, you will seal up the windows and the fans, and put in better filters, meaning the spore will not get into the hospital,” he explained.

He confirmed JJ Rhatigan is awaiting the green light from Leben Developments, a consortium bankrolling the extension, to continue. It is up to Leben to get the HSE to carry out the safety works, he added.

Leben Developments is a charitable consortium which includes representatives of cystic fibrosis group TLC4CF, the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust, and the Mid-West branch of the Parkinson’s Association of Ireland.

They have raised the money for this new development, and once it is completed - expected to be by mid-2014 - it will be given to the HSE.

Mr Mullane was unable to give a date as to when the builders would return to the site, but said that in the meantime, they have been redeployed on other projects which Rhatigans are involved with.

It is hoped work will get back underway on the project in the near future, however.

Nollaig Lonergan, Mid-Western Hospitals Trust, was not available for comment as the Limerick Chronicle went to press.

Meanwhile, the €35m Critical Care Unit moves closer to opening, after the contractor John Sisk handed the site over to the HSE. The project will see a non-invasive investigations unit alongside two medical device laboratories and a nine-bed day ward, with 19 full isolation rooms spread over the first, second and third levels.

HSE spokesman Michael Walsh said health service representatives are in the building “getting ready for phased commissioning”.