Health service management say they are in talks with the public on the future of Portlaoise hospital but it seems clear there will be huge political influence on what happens.
In a statement to the Leinster Express, the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group responded to claims from GPs that all services at the hospital are under threat from the likely recommendation that the hospital's Emergency Department should be phased out.
While it funds and oversees the hospital and will have a big say in its future, the Health Service Executive no longer comments directly on the facility.
Instead a statement was issued by a private public relations company retained by the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG). The chief executive of this group is leading the initiative to reconfigure Portlaoise.
It declined to comment on any of the GPs claims.
“Dialogue involving the Department of Health, HSE and ourselves is ongoing. While this process continues, DMHG is not in a position to comment further. We all share the common goal of ensuring high-quality, sustainable care at the hospital and across the midlands area.
“Everything we do must always be in the best interests of patients and will continue to be informed by local views,” said the statement.
The Leinster Express was told recently that the publication of the plan was imminent “within a matter of weeks”.
The statement contrasts sharply with what GPs have learned through the medical network. Another well placed hospital source said a Dublin consultant colleague told him it appeared from learning what is recommended that the hospital's “goose was cooked.”
Doctors in the bigger Dublin hospitals are also said to be concerned, chiefly because it will land more patients on their doorsteps.
Whatever is recommended, the Minister for Health, Simon Harris will have a big say in whatever is decided. Prior to the General Election, his predecessor, Leo Varadkar gave several commitments about services being retained in Portlaoise. He visited the hospital on at least two occasions.
In 2011, Minister Varadkar's predecessor James Reilly removed Portlaoise from a list of 10 smaller “at risk” hospitals that needed to be down graded. Most have losts services including the A&Es.
The Department of Health declined to say if it had received Dr O'Reily's report, or if it has been presented to the new Minister for Health.