HSE stands by plan for Portlaoise hospital a year after beginning talks with the Department of Health

Dublin Midlands Hospital Group says it began talks with Department of Health in May 2016

By Conor Ganly

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By Conor Ganly

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news@leinsterexpress.ie

Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise

Doctors in Laois set out their vision for the future of the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise to Minister Simon Harris.

The HSE body that runs Portlaoise hospital has stood by its unpublished plan for the facility nearly a year after it says it began talks on the hospital's future with the Department of Health.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris met Laois GPs and hospital consultants last week over the future of the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise. The doctors described the talks as very productive and indicated the the Minister had doubts over the plan drawn up by the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG).

Following the meeting the hospitals group issued a statement to the Leinster Express in which it stood its recommendations. While it has refused to publish its recommendations, it is widely speculated that the plan includes the removal of A&E and ICU as part of a substantial downgrade. 

“The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group submitted an action plan comprising the design phase of a new model of clinical services provision for the Hospital Group to the Department of Health in December 2016.  This document has been in discussion between the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, HSE and the Department of Health since May of 2016," it said. 

Simon Harris took over as Minister on May 6 2016. He is the third Fine Gael minister in recent times to face difficult decisions on the hospital.

While Minister Harris has delayed making a call on the hospital, the DMHG says the plan which it says looks to the long term.

 “The action plan is a long term vision and long term plan for Portlaoise Hospital and takes account of the need to develop services at Portlaoise Hospital, the interdependencies of clinical services and the risks of low volume services in the context of developing the model of service provision for the delivery of safe, sustainable hospital care for the entire Hospital Group. 

“It is important to stress that the development of this draft plan is following a mandate from the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to develop an Action Plan to address their concerns in relation to patient safety and risk at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.  Similarly, the HSE ‘Performance Diagnostics Report’ from 2014 highlighted similar concerns, as did the Chief Medical Officer’s Report to the Minister on Perinatal Deaths at Portlaoise Hospital," said the DMHG.

Dr Susan O'Reilly, DMHG chief executive, oversaw preparation of a plan for Portlaoise. The statement says the plan has  the full support of national groups respsponsible for the deliver of care. 

“The action plan was developed in collaboration with the National Clinical Leads who are responsible for the 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 action plan has the full support of all HSE National Clinical Leads and it was supported by the HSE Leadership Team.  The Hospital Group is committed to ensuring that any changes, once approved, will be carried out in a planned and consultative manner. The provision of high-quality, sustainable care at the hospital is a significant priority for all involved,” concludes the statement.

READ Leinster Express report on Laois doctors meeting with Minister Harris HERE

Dr O'Reilly met consultants in Portlaoise in April but refused to reveal any of the contents of the plan. Minister Harris refused to reveal any details of the plan to doctors when he met them last week in Dublin. The HSE refused to release the plan to Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley under Freedom of Information Act.

The impetus for a plan has its origins in an 2014 investigation carried out at Portlaoise hospital by the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) following the deaths of babies at the hospital's maternity unit.

While it accepted that shortcomings had been addressed in management and maternity, HIQA reiterated its call for a plan in a follow up report published in late 2016 when it once again raised doubts over the sustainability services in Portlaoise.

Minister for Health Simon Harris has the final say. He is the third Fine Gael health minister to have become embroiled in making a decision on Portlaoise. Dr James Reilly refused to downgrade in 2011 when a number of other hospitals such as Roscommon lost services. 

Minister Leo Varadkar ordered the HIQA investigation which has led to the plan for the hospital being drawn up. He was in the hot set when the scandal over the deaths of babies at the hospital exploded.