Portlaoise Hospital cuts 'scandal' that could cost lives

Politicians slam resource cuts that hitting Portlaoise hospital and patients

Portlaoise Hospital cuts 'scandal' that could cost lives
By Lynda Kiernannews@leinsterexpress.ieTwitter: @laoisnews

The continued closure of a unit at Portlaoise hospital is “outrageous” while shortcomings with the ambulance service in Portlaoise are putting lives at risks, two Laois Offaly politicans claim.

It is an “scandal“ that a endoscopy unit at Portlaoise hospital is shut when there are nearly 580,000 on hospital waiting lists, says Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley.

Following a Dáil question to Minister for Health Simon Harris, the HSE confirmed the ongoing closure, while Dep Stanley notes that an operating theatre in Naas Hospital is lying idle for 15 years.

Portlaoise and Naas are both part of the HSE's Dublin Midland Hospital Group.

"The scandal of this unit being closed is just one in a litany of issues in our Health Service. At a time when there are 579,891 on hospital waiting lists it is outrageous," said the Laois TD.

He said the Endoscopy room is in place, with equipment ready, but lying idle despite a waiting list of over 200 people for gastrointestinal Endoscopy procedures in Portlaoise.

"The doors of this unit are closed simply because of a lack of staff. This is appalling," he said.

Dep Stanley said the HSE's statement that the staffing of this Endoscopy Room is included in 2018 estimates and will be discussed next year, “is “very disappointing” and offers “no guarantee”.

He also claimed that there has not been an eye specialist in Portlaoise since November. He has submitted a question to the Minister on this "dreadful situation".

"No progress is going to be made on tackling the massive waiting lists at our hospitals until gaps in services like these are filled,” he said.

Dep Stanley said that the HSE confirmed that the operating theatre in Naas was never used since it opened in 2002, due to “staffing and funding deficits”.

Meanwhile RENUA leader and Offaly councillor John Leahy wants answers from the HSE and Minister for Health over long ambulance waiting times in Laois and Offaly.

Cllr Leahy said that ambulances in emergency should meet an average turn-around time of twenty minutes but these targets are not being reached at two bases in either county. The Offaly county councillor challenged the HSE to explain why.

In Tullamore, it takes on average of over 35 minutes to clear a call, with only 13.5 percent reached in less than 20 minutes.

In Portlaoise, that time is over 33 minutes, while only a quarter of calls are reached within the 20 minutes.

"I am gravely concerned that Tullamore is failing utterly to meet HSE targets, the situation in Portlaoise is equally unsettling," he said.

Cllr Leahy said it is not good enough that barely one in eight Tullamore ambulances are cleared in the correct time, Tullamore is the main hospital for Laois and Offaly.

"The fact that it takes so many ambulances, more that 50%, up to an hour, speaks of a totally dysfunctional system," he said.

"The situation in Laois is equally stark with three quarters of ambulance clearances failing to meet the twenty minutes objective," the Offaly councillor said.

He is concerned that the average national clearance time is at 33.11 minutes, little better than Tullamore.

“Once again lives are being put at risk. Ambulances backed up in Emergency Departments are not available to the community or to people who are seriously ill,” he said.

"It is time to tackle this crisis now with leadership and organization and to ask the National Ambulance Service and the HSE National Hospital Managers to identify realistic solutions,” said Cllr Leahy.