The General Manager of Letterkenny General Hospital, Sean Murphy, has confirmed that work to begin on a new emergency department and medical wards at the hospital.

Mr Murphy said he expected construction to begin in January and the project would be completed at the end of 2010, at a total cost of €22m.

He said the new facility will provide three medical floors which will consist of 72 beds, two thirds of which will be provided in single rooms, which will be state of the art and to the highest infection control standards.

'The new Emergency Department will incorporate an 11 bed Medical Assessment Unit and X-Ray room and will have19 treatment spaces. It will improve greatly the facilities for our patients and I look forward to the project progressing quickly,' he said.

The full development will be in the region of 6,600 sq metres and the project includes substantial site development works including the relocation of the mortuary chapel and provision of new waste and maintenance facilities.

Patients attending the A&E department at the hospital have regularly had to endure overcrowded situations, with many being treated on trolleys at busy times.

The situation has led to clinics and surgery being cancelled at various times.

A number of protests have been held at the hospital to highlight the situation.