Hospital may lose ICU and major surgery

A view of the large turnout for the Protest March against the downgrading of Portlaoise General Hospital on Sunday.                                        Photo Denis Byrne.
Services in Portlaoise Hospital could be downgraded as a result of last week’s report into the hospital published by the Health and Information and Quality Authority.

Services in Portlaoise Hospital could be downgraded as a result of last week’s report into the hospital published by the Health and Information and Quality Authority.

The county is now faced with the same downgrading of services it was faced with in the summer of 2011 when over 10,000 people marched in support of saving the hospital.

Hiqa’s damning report, which was commissioned following the deaths of five babies at the hospital, claimed there was not enough volume of major surgery cases to ensure that the service remained safe. Linking with the Coombe Hospital in Dublin appears to have stabilised issues in the Maternity Department.

“Surgical services do not have the volume of major cases to ensure consistency in that service. It remains a risk. The structures in place do not ensure a safe service, there is not enough throughput of cases to ensure consistency,” said Mary Dunnion, a member of Hiqa’s investigation team.

Speaking at the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation annual conference in Trim. the Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar said that services which do not have enough patients to support them will be discontinued.

This was reiterated by the Director General of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, over the weekend, despite saying the HSE had no agenda to downgrade the hospital at last Friday’s press conference.

Complex surgery, particularly colorectal surgery, will be moved to St James’ Hospital, and patients with higher risk pregnancies will be transferred to the Coombe Hospital.

The intensive care unit, which, the Hiqa report claims does not meet standards may also be removed from Portlaoise.

According to the report, the ICU is “not fit for purpose.” The HSE’s performance review in 2014 concluded that a 24-seven emergency care service at the hospital was “not clinically sustainable.”

“The surgical services at Portlaoise Hospital are not currently structured to ensure the delivery of safe surgery,” the report also said.

In conclusion, the report said there was insufficient acute and elective surgical presentations to ensure surgeons maintain the necessary competencies and expertise.

Last Friday, the head of the Dublin Mid-Leinster Hospital group Dr Susan O’Reilly, outlined the HSE’s future plans for the hospital.

This included enhancing the hospital’s day care capacities to do more day surgeries and electives procedures , such as endoscopies. She said the hospital just needed more recovery space and day ward which is being planned.

Dr O’Reilly said there had been big strides in the Maternity Department and she was excited about their collaboration with the Coombe.