Laois TD and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan has insisted that there are no plans for the HSE to move maternity services out of Portlaoise to a new unit in Tullamore.
He was responding to the official letter revealed last week by the Leinster Express which put forward the idea as a 'solution' for running a safe maternity service in the midlands.
The letter from Dr Susan O'Reilly, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, chief executive, was equally dismissed by Brian Stanley TD who described the proposal as a “crakpot plan.”
Minister Flanagan has already endorsed a plan from Laois doctors to develop the network model for the hospital which has seen close ties developed between Portlaoise and The Coombe hospital in Dublin.
“I have spoken to my colleague the Minister for Health, Simon Harris and he has confirmed that there are no plans to relocate maternity services from Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise to Tullamore General Hospital. Maternity services are an integral part of MRHP and there are no plans in place to change or relocate the services elsewhere.
The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group confirmed that the letter was sent and it did propose relocation as 'a solution'. Minister Flanagan dismissed the idea as rumour.
“There is no reason for fear and anxiety on the part of the people of Laois and the surrounding area. Rumours and speculation should also not be allowed to affect the morale of the staff at the hospital. I wish to pay tribute to the staff in MRHP particularly staff working in the maternity unit, who work tirelessly under sometimes difficult circumstances,” said the Fine Gael minister.
Meanwhile Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley was also angry with the idea.
"Removing the maternity unit from Portlaoise Hospital is a Crack-Pot idea.
"I am very concerned about the latest leak regarding the future of the maternity services in Portlaoise Hospital. It has been indicated that the plan includes a proposal to pull the maternity services out of the hospital. If this were true it would be a 'crackpot suggestion' as the hospital serves a huge catchment area of Laois/Offaly and South Kildare, delivering up to 2,000 babies a year.
"After many years of understaffing, the maternity unit has got extra staff and is operating to a high standard. The unit is one of the core services at Portlaoise Hospital. Why would you now pull it out ?."
Deputy Stanley said he has asked the Minister for Health, Simon Harris to clarify exactly what is going on.
A draft plan for the hospital has previously proposed the removal of services which could lead to the loss of A&E, paediatrics and maternity.
“I am again calling for Dr. Susan O' Reilly's report on the future of services at Portlaoise Hospital, that was to be out in September 2015 and is now 13 months late, to be published immediately.
Dr Susan O'Reilly, in conjunction with other national clincial leads and the HSE, has written a plan for Portlaoise which was not accepted in full by the Department of Health.