parents are facing a two hour round trip with their sick children, if proposed HSE cutbacks at Portlaoise’s hospital go ahead.
One option that the HSE is considering is that from July 11, the hospital will no longer treat people with injuries such as fractures, lacerations, sprains and strains after 8pm. For parents this means travelling to Tallaght, Crumlin or Kilkenny to a hospital which can treat paediatrics.
Adults with these injuries will have to present to another hospital also. Adults with acute surgical problems and who require urgent surgery for medical emergencies such as burst appendix, perforated bowel, perforated ulcer, will also have to be transferred to another hospital.
Currently, there are two emergency ambulances on duty in Portlaoise to answer all 999 calls in the region. According to a document which will be circulated at a public meeting tonight at 8pm in Portlaoise GAA Club, the downgrading of Portlaoise Hospital will almost certainly see these ambulances on calls and transfers to hospitals elsewhere.
This means that road traffic accident victims, heart attack victims and stroke victims will now wait excessively long times for ambulances to arrive.
The document to be published tonight outlines a grim future for Portlaoise but also questions the credibility of the decision which some fear is based on politics. Last year, almost 42,000 people attended the A&E Department in Portlaoise making it the 11th busiest A&E in the country, and the second busiest regional hospital in the country.
“Outside of the major cities in the country, the HSE’s own statistics show Portlaoise hospital to be the second busiest regional hospital in the country for acute emergency presentations, with only Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda seeing more emergencies than Portlaoise,” said the document.
There also seems to be confusion in Government over Portlaoise’s status. Last week, Minister for the Environment, Phil Hogan described Portlaoise as a major town, but at the same time the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly seems intent on cutting health services in “rural” areas.
With the July 11 deadline looming, when Junior Doctors will change their rotation, the HSE say they have still made no decision with regard to any hospital or service.
There are fears within the hospital that Portlaoise will finally pay the price for being the poor relation in the hospital hierarchy losing out to Tullamore and the far less busy hospital in Naas. Staff also face the unmanageble situation of having to turn some patients away a Portlaoise.
Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee will hold a public meeting in Portlaoise GAA Centre tonight (Wednesday night, June 29) at 8pm.
The original Laois General Hospital Action Group have also organised a public meeting for Monday, July 11 at 8pm in the GAA Centre.
The future of Portlaoise’s A&E will also be discussed at the AGM of the Dublin and Midlands Region Health Forum, which takes place in Tullamore, next Tuesday (July 5) at 2.30pm.
Local councillors Kathleen O’Brien, Willie Aird and Ben Brennan are members of the forum and Cllr O’Brien said they have tabled a motion looking for answers at next week’s meeting.