Portlaoise hospital on the brink

THE future of Portlaoise hospital’s A&E and other services hangs in the balance this week as the HSE and Government decide where services are to be provided in the midlands.

THE future of Portlaoise hospital’s A&E and other services hangs in the balance this week as the HSE and Government decide where services are to be provided in the midlands.

While there were unconfirmed reports of a last gasp reprieve for the hospital’s A&E, it appears certain that cuts are in the pipeline for the hospital’s emergency department which would curtail access form local people.

A report seen by the Leinster Express has found that the Midland Regional Hospita, Portlaoise is the worst affected of the three Midland hospitals by the shortage of junior doctors.

Dr Sean O’Rourke, consultant in emergency medicine, warns in the report of a “crisis” by July 11 if action is not taken He said that this may mean Portlaoise would be closed to acute surgical admissions. Patients would be seen in Kilkenny, Tullamore or Naas.

He says the hospital could have A&E opening hours cut or in the worst scenario that it would be downgraded to a minor injury unit.

But the report also threw up the possibility of Mullingar suffering the same fate as Portlaoise. There is also chance that Tullamore’s A&E could close at night if it cannot retain enough junior doctors.

However, the unit may be about to be thrown a lifeline as a result of representations made by senior doctors and staff who held emergency talks this week with the HSE’s top brass. A tentative deal may have been struck which could keep the hospital on call for surgical services with the result that the A&E could be protected.

Further meetings are due to take place among consultants from Tullamore and Mullingar to confirm the agreement.

Deputy Brian Stanley welcomed the fact that discussions had taken place but he feared that it would just be a “stay of execution for Portlaoise.” He said the hospital was in “an absolute mess” given the summer cuts to outpatients, dayward and acute surgery. He called on Charlie Flanagan TD to do more to protect Portlaoise.

In a statement Deputy Flanagan said he would lobby Minister for Health O’Reilly not to downgrade Portlaoise.

“The once great reputation of Portlaoise hospital suffered as a consequence of HSE ineptitude in the past when proper procedures were not followed in crucial areas like cancer care. However, the hospital continues to provide vital services in a competent way and I am determined that it will not be the arbitrary victim of any previous HSE bungling,” he said.