A group of protestors stood together outside University Hospital Galway (UHG) today to highlight overcrowding and long wait times in Irish hospitals.
There were calls from attendees for increased numbers of hospital beds, improved working conditions for staff, and equal access to services regardless of region.
The demonstration was one of 17 taking place across the country as part of a ‘National Day of Action against overcrowding’ in emergency departments. Thousands marched through the streets of Limerick city.
Organiser of the Galway protest Luke Silke said the level of investment in UHG in recent years “isn’t good enough”.
“The population of Galway has increased so much in the past couple of decades, but the level of staffing, the number of beds and the funding here [at UHG] hasn’t increased to match that.
“The HSE confirmed to me that over the past five years, a total of three new beds have been introduced here at UHG,” he said.
“Anyone who has a family member that is a nurse will be familiar with the stress that they’re under, the way they come home maybe with their lunchbox still full of food because they didn’t get a chance to eat.”
Mr Silke said the health service “really needs to do better” to tackle long wait times on trolleys for patients and the “distress” that comes with delays.
“Staffing is key. The amount of friends of mine who are emigrating, particularly nursing graduates who are setting their sights on other countries where pay and conditions are just better and fairer. If we could retain them at all and keep them here, we’d be able to process things a lot quicker, and if we had the beds to match that as well.”
Speaking to his fellow demonstrators, Silke said he had just been invited to a going away party for a group of nursing graduates emigrating together for work in Australia.
Independent TD for Galway West Catherine Connolly was in attendance at the protest and said a cycle of “limping from crisis to crisis” in Irish hospitals must be brought to an end.
“I’m really tired of short-term measures, I’m really tired of trying to answer questions in that manner. This is a systematic problem that has been allowed happen and we have to analyse that,” she said.
“In Galway before Christmas we had a huge battle to keep the Clifton Hospital open, the district hospital that theoretically is brilliant and serves for respite beds and step-down facilities. They didn’t have enough staff and it actually closed during the Christmas period.
“That’s one hospital that could take the pressure off [UHG] if it was used properly.”
Though a crowd of around 20 people turned out at UHG, the protest was part of a nationwide campaign which saw thousands stand outside hospitals and march through streets calling for improved emergency department capacities.