Keeping plan for Portlaoise hospital a secret n the 'best interest' of the people of Laois, Offaly, Kildare or Dublin says the HSE

Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley says reasons for refusing public access to the plan are 'bogus' and 'political casualties' are on the cards

By Conor Ganly

Reporter:

By Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

Portlaoise hospital

HSE refused to publish plan under Freedom of Information Ac.

Health management has refused to make public the plan for Portlaoise hospital because it says doing so would have a 'significant adverse outcome' on itself and would not be good for the people of Laois, Offaly, Kildare and Dublin.

The Health Service Executive and its Dublin Midlands Hospital Group has denied Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley access to the plan for the hospital under the Freedom of Information Act.

Refusing access that HSE/DMHG in Tullamaore fell back on three sections of the act. The first reason for refusal was that the records requested contained matters relating to the deliberative process of an FoI body (HSE) including opinions, advice, recommendations, and the results of consultations, considered by the body.

The plan was also kept under wraps because it was deemed that releasing it could "reasonably be expected to have a significant, adverse effect on the performance by an FoI body (HSE) of any of its functions relating to management (including industrial relations and management of the staff)."

It also refused to give access because, in the opinion of the head of the body (HSE/DMHG), the record could "reasonably be expected to disclose positions taken or to be taken, or plans, procedures, criteria or instructions used or followed for the purpose of any negotiations carried out, or to be, carried on on or behalf of the Government or an an FoI body".

The HSE also refused access because the plan is currently under consideration by the Department of Health. It was decided that release of the information "may not be in the best interests of the patients who avail of acute services in the region covered by Dublin Midlands Hospital Group".

The hospital group includes hospitals in Portlaoise, Tullamore, Naas, and Dublin (The Coombe, St James, Tallaght and Rathgar).

Deputy Stanley was told that the arguments for release were that the public had a right of access to information and that it was in the public interest that bodies such as the HSE be 'open and accountable'.

However, the two summary reasons were given against release. Namely, that it was in the public interest to permit 'normal managment' by the DMHG and HSE until the process is complete. Secondly that it was in the 'broader community interest' to allow the DMHG to manage staff and services 'effectively' with the aim of providing service delivery for patients.

In refusing access, health management has stuck to a rigid stance in not allowing the public and health staff a say in what happens to Portlaoise hospital. Doctors have requested and been refused access to the plan while the public and politicians have been told by the HSE that they will only be consulted on its implementation. There has been no process of consultation with the public.

Only officials at the Department of Health, HSE, unnamed clinical experts and various health groups have been consulted.

Reacting to the refusal Dep Brian Stanley said the plan was to be released in September 2015.

“The delay is not acceptable given the need to urgently set out the way forward for Portlaoise.  I have tried over the past 18 months to get it released. The reasons given for the refusal of my FOI request are bogus," he said.

The TD Said the HSE work is completed on this long ago. He said the Department of Health have had their deliberations on it. 

“If the HSE and Government think they can present a fait accompli behind closed doors  that has at the centre of it the closure of 24 hour A&E, they are wrong. This plan to reduce services will never be acceptable.

“If they try to proceed with it there will be casualties, but they will be political ones," he said

Leaks from the report say that he HSE and the DMHG favour a major downgrade over investment in the hospital. The Minister for Health Simon Harris as the final say as downgrade is a policy decision.