'HSE leadership' supports plan that could see Portlaoise hospital's downgrade says hospital boss

Minister Simon Harris as not accepted the plan drawn up by Dr Susan O'Reilly who insists that the HSE bosses and clinical leaders back her draft plan

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The hospital in Portlaoise.

Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

The draft plan on the future of Portlaoise hospital, which the Minister for Health has not yet accepted, has the support of 'HSE leadership', according the hospital manager who authored the report.

Dr Susan O'Reilly, chief executive of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, replied to Kildare Sinn Féin councillor Thomas Redmond at the Dublin Midlands Health Forum, which includes Portlaoise.

The doctor also claimed that she has consulted with local GPs and consultants on her reconfiguration plan but Laois GPs say they have been left out of the loop.

Her report is understood to recommend a significant downgrade of Portlaoise hospital, including the removal of the A&E. Doctors at the hospital believe this could lead to the loss of other services. But there are no signs of the Minister accepting the recommendations.

Cllr Redmond asked that the HSE organise a Regional Health Forum meeting with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, as well as the Minister for Older People and other relevant stakeholders to discuss the Portlaoise Hospital report that is left unpublished and in limbo.

In reply, Dr O'Reilly declined to agree to such a forum. She insisted that it has wide support but admitted that the Department of Health has not accepted the plan. Minister Harris has the final say on downgrade.

However, Dr O'Reilly made clear to Cllr Redmond that her plan has support.

"The draft plan has the full support of all participating HSE National Clinical Leads and was endorsed by the HSE Leadership Team," she said.

She said that in May, as part of the design phase of a new model of clinical services provision for the Hospital Group, the DMHG submitted a draft plan to the HSE and Department of Health. 

She said this draft plan includes a "long term vision" for Portlaoise Hospital. She claimed it takes account of the need to develop services at Portlaoise Hospital, "patient experiences, the interdependencies of clinical services and the risks presented by the low volumes in particular specialities at Portlaoise Hospital, as highlighted by HIQA". The objective of the draft plan is to develop a model of care which delivers of safe, sustainable care.

She said the draft plan was developed in collaboration with the National Clinical Leads (Consultants) with responsibility for National Clinical Programmes in Acute Medicine, Surgery, Emergency Medicine, Transportation Medicine, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Neonatology, Anaesthesia and Critical Care, as well as the National Ambulance Service and the National Acute Hospital Division Clinical Advisor and Deputy Director.

"The DMHG worked closely with the management at Portlaoise and the Coombe Hospitals respectively in developing this Plan; while consultation also took place with local GPs, the prison services, consultants and staff at the hospital," she claimed.

Despite this she admitted that there have been "ongoing discussions with the Department in advance of future service design being finalised".

She said any changes, once approved, will be carried out in a planned and consultative manner and will provide for "high-quality, sustainable care at the hospital, as well as taking account of the need to develop particular services at Portlaoise in the context of overall service reconfiguration in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group".

Minister Simon Harris told Sean Fleming in the past month that he had not accepted the report despite it having the support of the HSE's leadership. He said "no decisions" have been reached.