portlaoise hospital‘s emergency department is set to be downgraded to a medical assessment unit, despite assurances from the Minister of Health, just two months ago, that there was no threat to the 24-hour A&E.
Last week, the Health Service Executive confirmed in writing to the Dáil Public Accounts Committee their plans for the re-organisation of emergency departments in hospitals throughout the country.
The HSE say that the Medical Assessment Unit, or MAU, is appropriate to a Model 2 or local hospital and only “low risk medical patients” will be referred there.
According to documents revealed to the Leinster Express by Deputy Sean Fleming, an MAU for Portlaoise Hospital is “in development”, meaning that the unit is commencing development under the Acute Medicine Programme. However, there is no timescale for this, meaning that the future of Portlaoise Hospital is left in limbo.
GPs will refer patients for assessment in the MAU during daytime hours, but there will be no night-time cover.
As a member of the Public Accounts Committee, Fianna Fail TD, Sean Fleming, said he was shocked to receive this information. “It flies in the face of everything that has been said about protecting the future of Portlaoise Hospital,” he said.
He expressed anger and outrage that this information has been well known in the Department of Health and HSE in recent months. “This information has been publicly withheld from all the Oireachtas members in the county and the public at large.”
“Portlaoise is on the same HSE list as Roscommon Hospital. We all know what happened to the emergency department in Roscommon. It was unilaterally downgraded recently and the people were told that they could to Galway,” Deputy Fleming said. “At least we now have the truth of what is planned.”
In the same week, HSE representatives met with members of Portlaoise Town Council and reassured members that the figures from people attending the A&E in Portlaoise, were enough to keep it open.
Hospital manager, Jackie McNulty and James Conway, assistant national director also informed councillors that the hospital was looking at ways to cut back on spending, as the budget was overspent by around €1million.
Minister James Reilly was in New York and unavailable for comment.
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