The Taoiseach has described the emergency department at University Hospital Galway as not being fit for purpose and one of the most inadequate facilities in the country.

Enda Kenny was responding to Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin during Leaders' Questions who said he had visited the hospital last week, where he was briefed by staff.

He described conditions in the department at the time of his visit last Wednesday as appalling.

Mr Martin said that on average 250 people attend the ED every day and that it was built originally with capacity for 100.

He told the Dáil of the conditions in the paediatric area, which he said consisted of two bays in the corner of the room with no capacity for to deal with infection control and said there were children "crying on the ground".

Deputy Martin asked why the hospital was not included in the Government's Capital Plan.

He said the hospital had sought approval to progress to the design stage of a new department but this had been "rebuffed", and sent back to the hospital to be reassessed and "scaled down".

Mr Kenny acknowledged the problems at UHG and said staff had to work under extraordinary conditions.

However, he said the building could not be replaced overnight.

He said he did not know at what stage the design process was at but he would find out.

Mr Kenny said he accepts that the emergency department has to be replaced but there was a process of approval and planning to go through.

The Taoiseach later apologised to the parents of a six-week-old baby girl after they were left waiting 11 hours in Cork University Hospital's emergency department for a hospital bed.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said it unfair that such situations were no longer unusual. 

He said the Taoiseach promised to reform the health service – including the two-tier health system, the introduction of free GP care, ending prescription charges and an end to the HSE – but none of this happened.

Mr Kenny said he was sorry that the family in Cork had found themselves in that situation and said he expected that hospital management would respond to the Minister for Health and the HSE as to why it happened.

Mr Adams accused Mr Kenny of being responsible for "a service in chaos" adding that there was no point in the Taoiseach "saying sorry", when he is in charge.