A LEADING Laois businessman believes cuts at Portlaoise hospital's A&E would lead to longer waiting times for Laois patients at an "overstretched" hospital in Tullamore.
In a letter to the Leinster Express William Telford questioned the capacity of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore to cope with the pressure caused by rumoured HSE cutbacks in opening hours at its sister hospital in Portlaoise. He also encouraged local people to make A&E services a General Election issue.
Shortly before Christmas Mr Telford said a family member became seriously ill and was brought to the A&E in Portlaoise, from where she was admitted to the hospital. She remained over the Christmas period and regrettably passed away peacefully during the early hours of Wednesday December 29. The business man said his family were grateful to all staff who he said were a credit to the hospital.
"We, as a family, cannot praise too highly the standard of care that she received during this time. She was treated in a professional manner but also with a standard of care and compassion that went far beyond the call of duty," he said.
Mr Telford said many of the staff come from the local community as do many of the patients. He believed this connection must be a comfort to patients and a help with their recovery. He said the hospital is a community hospital and this is important.
"It is, therefore, with alarm that I read in your last week's paper (Leinster Express) that there are rumours that there may be cuts to the hospital services, specifically reducing the A&E Department from a 24-hour to a 12-hour service. You report that the HSE has denied that this is the case, hopefully this is true," he said.
The businessman believed that cuts in Portlaoise would hit Tullamore which cannot cope as it stands since it was already "overstretched".
"I personally observed the A&E Department there (Tullamore) on a Sunday afternoon/evening during last Summer. At that time all the patients attending could not be accommodated in the main A&E waiting room and had to be moved to an overflow room. Patients had to wait many hours before being see.
"This is no fault of the front line staff, but not enough staff was available and the waiting room space appeared not to be large enough to accommodate existing patient numbers (it was certainly not able to do so on the day that I was there). So, how can it accommodate and service extra patient numbers which would come from Portlaoise and Mullingar, without increasing the space and also the staff? The only other way that this could work is if the current facilities at Tullamore are highly underutilised. This does not seem to be the case," he said.
Mr Telford said quick medical intervention is vital to patient recovery, in the case of strokes another conditions. He questioned how this squares with any proposal to transport patients from areas of Laois to Tullamore and thus maybe adding an hour or more to the time before receiving treatment
"The hospital at Portlaoise including the full service A & E Department is a vital community resource and any attempts to reduce the services there should be strongly resisted by the community. The upcoming General Election will give all of us an opportunity to make our views known to the political policy makers. We should take this opportunity," he said.