Investment in staff and infrastructure is required for Portlaoise hospital according to one TD, after it emerged that staff are operating against “insurmountable odds”.
Deputy Brian Stanley noted that the hospital’s budget has been cut by almost one fifth in recent years with reduced funding of €8 million.
“While there has been this large budget reduction at the same time more babies are being born, there are more elderly people and there is a population increase in the area,” Deputy Stanley said.
He said he has been made aware of “staff operating under enormous pressure” in terms of both workload and rosters. This was borne out in the review sent to Ian Carter.
“The government has to make a decision in relation to the status of Portlaoise Hospital. Portlaoise is classed as a significant regional hospital serving Laois and Kildare but its budget does not reflect that,” Deputy Stanley said.
According to Deputy Sean Fleming a change in the recruitment policy and working practices for doctors at the hospital could resolve some of the problems raised in the recent review
He said it would be an ideal arrangement if consultants were employed in Portlaoise but also worked in the St. James’ Hospital where they could receive the benefits of continuous training available in a busier hospital, where surgical specialities exist.
If there isn’t a change in policy, he said “it will get worse” for the foreseeable future at Portlaoise hospital.
Deputy Fleming said some of the issues go back to the fact that Portlaoise “is not a training hospital”, and because of this, “consultants don’t want to go to Portlaoise”.
The hospital in Portlaoise “is going to be downgraded” Deputy Fleming said under the current arrangement. He said Oireachtas members were informed in recent years that Portlaoise hospital’s future would be the provision of day procedures and elective surgery.
“There is a downgrading of Portlaoise hospital by stealth,” Deputy Fleming warned. “We are going to end up with a situation that Portlaoise hospital is just getting day procedures”.
Already the situation exists that anyone in an accident on the motorway who has broken bones etc. is sent directly to Tullamore hospital while anyone suffering from a stroke is sent directly to the hospital in Naas, Deputy Fleming noted.
“The only way we can improve the situation is by increasing the status of the hospital,” he said. He said if major surgery is not performed at the hospital, then they will not be able to attract the top consultants. He said the current and potential future problems are both “foreseeable and avoidable”.
Minister for Children Charlie Flanagan (Fine Gael) and Senator John Whelan (Labour) declined to comment when contacted by the Leinster Express.