THE Mayor of Ennis has cast doubt on the prospect of a new accident emergency unit at University Hospital Limerick opening this year. The long-awaited unit was expected to open in 2017 after originally being due for completion in 2016. But speaking in Ennis last week, Councillor Ann Norton (Ind) said she does not see the unit opening before the end of the year. Cllr Norton, who is a member of the Health Services Executive (HSE) West Forum, cited recruitment issues as the biggest obstacle.

“I myself can’t see the new A&E opening any time this year because if it was going to open this year, they would already have started recruiting staff for the facility,” she said.

Cllr Norton made her comments at the January meeting of the Ennis Municipal District (MD), as elected representatives discussed the latest crisis to hit the health services.

Her concerns over the new A&E unit echoed similar views expressed by Cllr Tom McNamara (FF). Cllr McNamara, who also a member of the HSE West Forum, told the meeting that he too has doubts the unit will open in 2017.

“There is a concern over how that is going to be staffed. Now it’s showing up as a difficulty that they have problems hiring staff to run it. These issues should have been dealt with over the last two years. I think the whole health service needs a root and branch check out,” Cllr McNamara said. Cllr McNamara said the delays being experienced by patients in accident and emergency units are “totally unacceptable.”

Cllr McNamara called on Ennis MD to write to the CEO of the UL Hospital Group to highlight their concerns.“We were moved into an A&E service that wasn’t for purpose. We were promised a new build by 2015. Its now coming into 2017 and we’re lucky if we’ll see it before the end of this year, they way things are going. I think it’s important we as a municipal district express our concern regarding that,” he said.

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