The Health Service Executive is to spend €1 million next year on linking Portlaoise hospital's Emergency Department (ED/A&E) with a unit that could replace it.
Under the HSE's Dublin Midland's Hospital Group reconfiguration plan for Portlaoise, the ED would be replaced by a GP-referred Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) and a 12-hour Local Injuries Unit.
A building to would house a 'MAU / Day Ward' was completed in 2016 at a cost of €5 million but is only partially used. It is located near the main entrance to the hospital on Portlaoise's, Block Road.
The HSE Service Plan announced its 2018 service plan today which sees €14.5 billion available for the health service next year.
Reference is made to a project at the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise on page 129 of the 130 page HSE service plan published today.
The plan says there will be money for capital investment in a new 'hospital street extension linking ED and Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU)'. It will be completed and operational by the end of September (quarter 3) of 2018.
The capital cost in 2018 will be €800,000 and the total cost is set to run to €1 million. It will involve no new jobs or have any revenue implications for the hospital. It will mean no replacement or additional beds.
It was claimed during 2017 that €300,000 had been set aside in 2017 to commission the Medcial Assessment Unit.
Doctors at the hospital contend that an AMAU cannot operate without an Emergency Department.
The HSE has also budgeted to complete the purchase and fit out of a building for Tallaght hospital to provide accommodation for chronic care / day services.
The HSE plan promises to reduce trolley waiting times. Extra beds will be opened at hospitals in Drogheda, Galway, Limerick, Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Kilkenny, Clonmel and Roscommon.
None of the hospitals are in the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group which includes: St James' Tallaght, Tullamore, Portlaoise, Naas and The Coombe.
The DMHG wanted to launch a strategy this week which included proposals to increase capacity in its hospitals. This was blocked because of a proposal to downgrade services at Portlaoise hospital.
On the same day as he helped the HSE launch its service plan, the Minster for Health Simon Harris confirmed that he wanted to consult in 2018 with the public and doctors working ant and who refer to Portlaoise hospital.
Wejchert Architects say the new MAU Day Ward building is carefully sited to allow connectivity to main hospital and to allow for future expansion of the hospital to the south of the new building and future expansion to the west on adjoining HSE lands across the other side of Block Road.
The architects say the proposed development includes a Hospital Street which may in the future be extended across to these lands and above Block Road.