A consultant surgeon at Merlin Park Hospital in Galway has written to the Health Minister to raise concerns that an operating theatre which closed because of a leaky roof has not been replaced. 

Speaking on RTÉ's Drivetime programme, Dr Fergus Byrne said that almost 18 months after the issue arose, hospital staff are still no closer to being able to provide a service which lies within their capabilities.

He said "there seems to be a problem in relation to the contracts that were issued between the HSE and the supplier" of a modular theatre. 

"The bottom line for us is that with a huge population and a waiting list of over 1,600 patients as of last week we are still operating on one theatre for the last number of months," Dr Byrne said.

He said this is having a "devastating" medical impact on patients and is demoralising for staff at the hospital.

Dr Byrne questioned whether the problem was being taken seriously by authorities.

"We've been through a process for almost 18 months now and we've had reassurances, promises and guarantees and none of them have been delivered on. It seems the problem is not being taken seriously, or seriously enough at a HSE level or at a Dublin level."

Earlier in the Dáil, the Independent TD for Galway West, Catherine Connolly, said two theatres were "put out of action because of rain, actual rain falling down".

She said a commitment was given that they would be replaced by modular units, but this has not yet been delivered on.

"This is absolutely unacceptable in a city where the main hospital is creaking at the seams," she said 

The Taoiseach responded that one operating theatre has since opened elsewhere in the hospital.

He said a tender process was recently undertaken regarding the provision of two modular theatres for orthopaedics and that they are currently undergoing the planning process.

The letter, sent to Minister Harris on 23 January,  from the consultant surgeon says he is one of a group of ten "fully committed orthopaedic surgeons "working in the hospital and that a commitment was made more than a year ago to address the theatre closures but that has not been delivered on". 

The letter which was also sent to all TDs in the constituency, said 1,500 patients are waiting for complex joint replacements, spinal surgery, foot ankle and shoulder surgery while waiting lists continue to expand. 

Additional reporting Peter Farrell