Covid causes call for bigger Portlaoise hospital Emergency Department and special unit for breathing conditions

Conor Ganly


Conor Ganly


Doctors in Laois set out their vision for the future of the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise

Covid-19 has highlighted the need for Portlaoise hospital to have new unit to help people with breathing difficulties and the expansion of the Emergency Department (ED) in Portlaoise, according to Laois Offaly Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley.

In a statement issued during his 'week off' from politics, Deputy Stanley called on the Health Minister Stephen Donnelly and Government need to approve funding for a Respiratory Assessment Unit (RAU) and the expansion of the existing Emergency Department at the Midland Regional Hospital Hospital.

St James's Hospital in Dublin says its Respiratory Assessment Unit is comprised of a team that help patients with breathing  difficulties such as emphysema, chronic bronchitis (COPD), asthma, bronchiectasis and lung fibrosis. It also provides an outreach service.

Deputy Stanley said the pandemic has put this type of care into focus as has the requirement for a bigger Emergency Departement.

"The need for such a unit has always been there but this has been underlined and brought into sharp focus by the Covid 19 Emergency. What’s needed is the expansion of the Emergency Department to incorporate this and also create badly needed extra space to cater for general emergency admissions.

"The existing ED is very small with restricted physical space for staff and patients. Staff are working in a totally inappropriate setting to carry out assessment of patients and deliver initial treatment.  Portlaoise is a very busy unit with an average of 40,000 attending in normal years and this needs to be recognised.

"The staff in Portlaoise have worked under extraordinary pressure throughout the past 9 months. Everything possible must be done to improve the facilities they work in. An investment like this in the ED would also help to secure its future, something that has not yet been forthcoming from Government.

"A submission has been made to the Department of Health and Government for Portlaoise to be included in the group of hospitals to be approved for new Respiratory Assessment Units. The estimated cost is in the region of €5million and given the difficulties with space there at present, it’s very important that Portlaoise is approved and I am urging the Minister to sign off on it. I have appealed to Minister Donnelly to do just this,” said the TD.

A plan drawn up for the HSE and revealed in 2017 proposed that the Emergency Department be removed from Portlaoise hospital alongside ICU, paediatrics, maternity and most surgery as part of a reconfiguration of services in the Dublin Midlands Regional Hospital Group.