Irish Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly was shocked by the scene he found at the Emergency Department of University Hospital Galway when he made a spur of the moment visit on Thursday morning.

He discovered 23 patients lying on trolleys in the corridors of the Emergency Department while waiting for beds to become available. One of the patients was an elderly man who had been waiting for 20 hours on a trolley.

The minister, who was in Galway at an official function at NUI Galway, decided to make an impromptu visit to UHG to see firsthand the overcrowding situation at the city hospital, which has consistently been rated as the worst performing in the country in the HSE’s monthly Healthstat reports. He gave UHG only a few minutes’ notice, calling to announce his visit just as his ministerial car pulled into the hospital gates.

“When I arrived there were 23 people on trolleys waiting for a bed and admission, I chatted and apologized to one man who was on a trolley for 20 hours, and another man who was there for 12 hours. That’s not good enough . . . patients are extraordinarily tolerant and good humored, but I’m not going to preside over this sort of situation . . . I’m absolutely determined and committed that this is going to change,” Minister Reilly told the Galway City Tribune following the visit.

Dr Martin Connor, newly appointed head of the new ‘Special Delivery Unit,’ a new unit charged with reducing waiting lists in the country’s hospitals, visited UHG only hours after the minister left. Chairperson of HSE West regional forum, Cllr Pádraig Conneely (FG), said the visits show the government and minister have made the hospital a priority.