There has been a swift political condemnation of the latest report on A&E downgrades that appeared to undermine services at the Portlaoise hospital, but Laois' Minister has insisted that there is no plan to cut care.
“There are no plans to close or remove services from Emergency Departments,” said Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan.
He said the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland asked for work be done to examine the concept of a trauma network in hospitals. He added that complex surgery referred to in the report has not been carried out in Portlaoise for some time.
“The former Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar agreed to this and set up a group to look at it.
“The group has not yet reported and the Minister for Health, Simon Harris has not seen any output from this group,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Minister said he had spoken with the author of the main report on Portlaoise hospital.
“In the meantime I wish to confirm that I spoke last week with Dr Susan O’Reilly and I conveyed to her directly the sense of unease and dissatisfaction in the Laois area following recent reports as highlighted at a public meeting last month,” he said.
He said Dr O’Reilly “assured” him that she would engage closely with all interested stake holders medical and otherwise in Laois to ensure that services provided at MRHP “meet the needs and requirements of patients and health care partners into the future.”
“Let me be clear there has been no agreement between the HSE and the Department of Health in relation to any reduction of services at Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise,” he said.
Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said the leak painted a picture of a disjointed health service.
“The latest revelations clearly show the HSE has no overall plan and there is absolutely no joined up thinking within the organisation on this matter.
“A recent report prepared for the Minister suggests downgrading the A&E unit in Portlaoise and that some people could be transferred to Naas.
“Yesterday’s report now talks about downgrading the A&E Department in Naas. Clearly the right hand of the HSE does not know what the left hand is doing,” he said.
The TD said there are massive problems in the health service, especially with people on trollies .
“ The idea of curtailing the services in nine A&E Departments makes no sense,” he said.
Deputy Fleming called on the Minister for Health, Simon Harris to make a clear statement on these proposals.
Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley also wanted answers.
This would create a situation where there would be no Emergency Department between Dublin and Limerick - a distance of 200km!
“If this is being proposed by the Government or the HSE, they will learn very quickly that the people of Laois and Kildare won’t tolerate it.
“This is an outrageous proposition and will endanger lives in the midlands and county Kildare.
He said recruitment problems were being blamed, but he said there would be problems if it is continually stated that the hospital faces closure.
“What the Government and the HSE will not say is that their relentless war of attrition against Portlaoise over the years has created this difficulty in recruiting staff.
“ If a person has a reasonably good job with a company, they will not apply for another job with a business that is rumoured to be at risk of closure every other week for the past two decades.
“Proposals by the Department of Health and the HSE to close nine A&E units across the country is dangerous and will put lives at risk,” said Labour Party's Cllr Noel Touhy.
He said units in Mullingar, Naas and Portlaoise are being targeted leaving heavily populated areas without adequate 24 hour A&E care.