A quote taken from British doctors and nurses best sums up how doctors in Laois view the thinking behind any downgrade of Portlaoise hospital's Accident & Emergency Department (A&E/ED).
“After more than 20 years of unremitting growth in attendances, the power of the A&E brand shows no signs of weakening. Instead of mounting endless initiatives in the hope, rather than expectation, that the demand might in some way be curbed, the government of the day would be better served by planning for the reality of higher attendances and admissions,” said the report from the Royal College of Nursing and Royal college of Emergency Medicine.
Laois doctors also point to the College of Emergency Medicine's guidance.
“Where the next nearest ED is more than 20 kms away there is a strong argument for retaining emergency services,” said the College's Way Ahead report.
The Laois doctors point out that the closest A&E is in Tullamore at 40 kms while Naas is 52kms from Portlaoise.
The doctors say that the overcrowding crisis at hospitals in the Mid-West, Dublin, West and North east of Ireland has followed the closure of “much smaller” units than Portlaoise which treats 36,000 patients annually, making it among the highest of any of the hospitals outside the major urban centres.
The doctors say planners must have regard to these figures.
“There is, however, no capacity within the region to accommodate people elsewhere who currently attend ED in Portlaoise. Trolley figures for the first six months of 2016 show a crisis of capacity,” says the plan.
The doctors recommend that the A&E be staffed to provide 24/7 care for undifferentiated emergency patients who present by ambulance or in person.
However, the doctors agree that in line with other A2 units, unstable or highly acutely ill patients be transferred along national protocols to a designated network hospital.
The doctors want Portlaoise A&E to be properply staffed.
This would mean a consultant would be present in the unit from 8am to 8pm with sessional commitments at weekends.
They also recomend that the A&E be integrated with the emergency medicine network.
“The ED at Portlaoise has suffered historically from under resourcing - under resourcing that threatens the viability of this unit, notwithstanding the clear demand for services” say the doctors