The Government of Ireland has announced that it will expedite plans to increase bed capacity at University Hospital Limerick (UHL).

Irish Health Minister Stephen Donnelly said that a 96-bed ward block is currently being built, while two additional 96-bed blocks are proposed to be developed as part of the hospital’s masterplan.

The government aims to ‘transform’ healthcare in Ireland by prioritising patient needs over their ability to pay.

It said in a statement: “Our health infrastructure is key to providing health services and is a fundamental enabler of health service reform.

“Investment in infrastructure is taking account of the complexity of health services and the changing way we deliver those services now and into the future.”

Since January 2020, the Irish Government’s Health Service Executive (HSE) has opened 975 permanent hospital beds, excluding critical care, marking the largest increase in capacity in its history.

The HSE has increased critical care capacity to 323 beds, which represents an increase of around 25% over the 2020 baseline of 258 beds.

It now plans to add another 29 beds to Ireland’s critical care segment this year.

Minister Donnelly said: “I am delighted to announce that the HSE is making arrangements to accelerate enabling works, which will progress delivery of a new second 96-bed ward block.

“This next phase of works to be progressed in the coming months at UHL will include an underground car park, along with ground floor and first floor shell spaces together providing the lower floors of the next hospital block envisaged in the site masterplan.

“The HSE will also prepare plans to take forward a further phase of capital works that would include construction and fit out of a further four 24-bed inpatient wards as part of the upper part of second ward block.”