The Minister for Health will be signing 'death warrants' of patients if he approves a report to downgrade Portlaoise hospital, according to Sinn Féin TD, Brian Stanley.
The Laois TD made the dramatic claim in the Dáil this week on a debate on the Sláintecare Report, a ten year plan for building a national health service.
“I want to deal, in particular, with the emergency services in Portlaoise Hospital. The Sláintecare Report sets out clearly that "concrete measures to improve access to Emergency Departments (ED/A&E). It recommends the introduction of “a maximum wait time in EDs, working towards a four hour target".
"Side by side with this, the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group produced a report that was leaked to me three weeks ago. The 24 hour Emergency Department is being closed and will be replaced with a minor injuries unit and a Medical Assessment Unit open during daytime hours.
The TD said that according to leaks to The Sunday Business Post by the HSE last weekend which would cost €100 million to provide the extra capacity in other hospitals such as Tallaght and Tullamore.
"If the ED at Portlaoise Hospital is removed serious paediatric services, maternity services and the intensive care unit will also go. It is widely acknowledged that since improvements were made in staffing levels in Portlaoise Maternity Unit, services have improved dramatically yet the proposal now is that these will be transferred to the Coombe.
"Has the Minister ever tried to get from Portlaoise to Dublin during the three hours of rush hour in the morning and in the evening? Patients cannot be transported by road because apart from the gridlocked traffic, outside of those six hours the ambulances are not available.
"There is only one ambulance available in Laois on Monday and Tuesday nights.We all know that the golden hour, the first hour after a serious accident or health incident, is key. If Dr. Susan O'Reilly has her way the critical golden hour will be lost. The issue is now in the hands of the Minister.
"If anybody dies in the back of an ambulance either travelling to Tullamore or Dublin it will come down on the Minister's head. If he signs off on this he is signing the death warrants of people in Laois and the surrounding counties. He is also signing the death warrant of Fine Gael and there will be political consequences for Fianna Fáil, the party that is propping it up in government if it goes ahead with the proposal.
"The Minister should talk to the GPs and hospital consultants and make the necessary investment in Portlaoise Hospital. It will not amount to €100 million or even €20 million. The Minister should shred the fantasy plan of Dr. Susan O'Reilly and push on with Sláintecare," concluded Dep Stanley.