PICTURE: DECLAN DOHERTY
LETTERKENNY General Hospital’s Accident and Emergency Department has reopened after overnight flooding. Almost a year to the week when over 40 per cent of the hospital was wiped out due to flash floods the A&E was again shut down for three hours and patients diverted to Sligo after torrential rain flooded into the building
The incident which happened shortly before 7pm has been described by a member of the HSE as an ‘unmitigated disaster’ and there are fears services may be cut as a result. The Accident and Emergency Department was closed last night between 8 and 11 pm for major infection control investigations.
While water entered the administrative areas of the clinical areas were not affected. Staff and emergency services done trojan work to save the hospital from major flooding. Frontline staff have hit out at management who they claim failed to acknowledge the seriousness of the crisis as it unfolded.
Over 35 mm of rain fell in an hour and breached water defence systems. Despite the fact over 30 million has been paid repairing the hospital since last July and over 1.5million on flooding prevention measures the accident and emergency department car park was submerged in over three feet of water.
There were calls last night from senior politicians in Donegal for a full public inquiry while demands were also made for the Minister for Health, Mr Leo Varadkar to visit the hospital tomorrow (Wednesday).
Fire tenders, private tankers and the gardai joined staff at the hospital to fight back the deluge of water running from an embankment above the building into the car park and front entrance to the emergency department.
However, despite their best efforts flood water breached the building at the front and the rear.
Speaking at the scene, local County Councillor and HSE Forum member, Cllr Gerry McMonagle, said it was an ‘unmitigated disaster’. He has called for a full inquiry into the design and build of the new Emergency Department.
“It is unbelievable to stand here, a year after flooding caused 40 million euro worth of damage to the same building and we have to witness this disaster again,”
“I’ll be calling on management for a full investigation around the design, the work that has been done on flood defence forces since last year and whether this building is going to be covered by insurance,” he said.
“I’ve been told by staff the flood water got into the building. I don’t know yet how much damage has been done but it is sad to see staff brushing water out of the building again,” he added.
The flooding started shortly before 7pm and within 15 minutes the car park at the Accident and Emergency Department was flooded by the deluge. Cars were blocked in by the water levels and patients attending the accident and emergency were moved to other parts of the hospital.
“It is terrible for the people of this county again- but that’s what you get when you build a new hospital in a hole,” one irate onlooker said at the scene last night.
With fears of further rainfall tonight there was growing concern for further damage. By 9pm the flood waters had receded but emergency service workers remained at the scene.
Sinn Fein TD Padraig MacLochlainn, who visited the hospital said staff and emergency service workers done a tremendous job to ‘save the hospital’ from another catastrophe.
However, he has again called for an inquiry into the design and build of the new department on such a low lying site.
“This is the third time this department has been flooded. As sure as night is day we will be back here again unless serious remedial works are carried out to avert flooding,” he said.
“People are angry. This hospital came within 15 minutes of being wiped out again,” he added.
Fianna Fail TD Charlie McConalogue praised staff and the emergency services for their prompt responses.
“They saved the day,” he said.
He agreed the health minister should visit the hospital tomorrow and initiate an investigation.