Fears are growing in among doctors in Laois that the Department of Health has agreed with the plan to downgrade the Portlaoise's hospital.
The Leinster Express has learned that consultants at the hospital have been asked to attend a meeting with Dr Susan O'Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Midlands Hospital Group this week at short notice.
The Leinster Express also understands that deliberations on a plan for the future of Portlaoise hospital are complete and it is now up to the Minister for Health Simon Harris to decide what should be done.
It is understood that Department of Health officials have signed off on recommendations for the hospital's future following lengthy deliberations with the HSE and the DMHG. The recommendation is likely to include references to A&E, maternity and other services.
The original report submitted to Portlaoise hospital is understood to have recommended significant downgrade of the hospital. This was not accepted by the Departments.
There are fears among doctors at the hospital that Dr O'Reilly will use the meeting to prepare the ground for downgrade. Dr O'Reilly is the author of the plan for the hospital submitted to the Department. She is also on record as saying that Maternity service should transfer to Tullamore Hospital.
A delegation of GPs and consultants met with Fianna Fáil's health spokeperson Billy Kelleher last week in an effort to win his support for the retention of services at the hospital. A consultant from the Coombe Hospital, which manages the maternity unit at the hospital, was among the doctors who met Deputy Kelleher.
The future of the hospital is a health service policy decision. Under the law governing the HSE, the Minister for Health sets policy for the health service so he will have the final say on the hospital's future.
The Minister has committed to consulting local people and doctors before he decides. He has already met with Laois county councillors. Laois TDs Sean Fleming, Brian Stanley and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan oppose transfer.
Before Christmas, the Health Information and Quality Authority, reported many improvements at the hospital but also called for a plan for the future. Its follow up to the investigation on maternity and other services in Portlaoise criticised that absence of a plan. It also found that A&E was unsustainable in the current setting.