I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for selecting this critical item for debate today and I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, to the Chamber. I know accident and emergency departments around the country are under pressure, not least the department at Mayo University Hospital. There is a planned extension for the accident and emergency department and a plan to install more medical bed capacity. I would like to see some progress on this and I ask that funding be ring-fenced so that architects can be appointed and the hospital can at least begin to design the extension to start moving this investment along.
Currently, there are staff operating in very pressurised circumstances and patients are on trolleys in corridors. I heard that yesterday there were 30-odd persons on trolleys in Mayo University Hospital and a similar number on trolleys in Galway. Mayo University Hospital's capacity is smaller than that of Galway and the accident and emergency department is much smaller. In excess of 30 people on trolleys in Mayo University Hospital would have a bigger impact there than a similar number would have in Galway.
I know part of rolling out Sláintecare is an increase in capacity and this speaks to that objective. Something needs to be done. When the accident and emergency department was designed, it was meant to handle approximately 20,000 cases per year but it is now receiving approximately 36,000 cases per year. This is evidence of the clear capacity constraints that exist. On the other hand, I acknowledge some of the measures taken by the Government, including investment in the Castlebar primary care centre. That is a good news story as it provides X-ray facilities outside the hospital setting, and it handles approximately 7,000 cases per year. This is done under the auspices of the hospital consultants and radiology department, and it means people only wait approximately one week for the service. This demonstrates that the Government's move towards investment in community and primary care centres is correct. There is more potential capacity and there are plans in the pipeline to expand services at the primary care centre, including ultrasound facilities. In the meantime, this issue needs urgent attention. A recent survey was done on patient experiences and all the issues pertaining to Mayo University Hospital involve capacity. No matter how efficiently people work, when they do not have space to take in patients, problems arise, as the Minister of State knows.