Dr Susan O'Reilly willing to engage with public on draft Portlaoise hospital plan if Minster Harris allows it to happen

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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Portlaoise hospital hse a&e laois

Dr Susan O'Reilly Dublin Midlands Hospital Group Chief Executive

The lead author of the plan to remove services from Portlaoise hospital is prepared to engage in a public consultation process but cannot do so without the go-ahead from the Minister for Health.

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group's Chief Executive Dr Susan O'Reilly has, to date, declined to engage directly with the public and politicians on the plan. The stance to date has been that any engagement with the public would only take place upon its implementation.

In an interview with the Leinster Express she said the DMHG wanted to consult beyond the medical world but was not given the green light by to do so by the Department.

Dr O'Reilly insisted the Dublin Midlands Hospital, Portlaoise is a very good and safe hospital. While she stood over the plan  which would see the hospital radically reconfigured, she said it is not too late to hear the views of the public. 

She said that Department of Health's insistence on confidentiality had restricted such a process from taking place heretofore.

"Personally, I welcome engagement. It was regarded as a confidential report to the Minister (for Health) to decide on policy. My own view is that I prefer to be very open minded and engaging with the public and professionals and with expert advice. So I think it is never to late to do that (consultation)," she said.

Dr O'Reilly agreed with a suggested consultation period lasting six months but added that to date the plan has been seen as 'very much a confidential report' from the Minister's point of view. 

"I would have hoped there would have been a willingness to engage on it all the way along because I would like to do that. This report is completed in terms of the interdependencies of services. That job is done. The consultation I would welcome is engagement with focus groups and professional staff to a higher degree," she said.

"It is not in my gift to do that without the go-ahead from the Department of Health. From my own perspective, we within the group would take guidance from the Minister for Health. I don't know what his advice is going to be but certainly should his advice be that (to consult) we would certainly proceed," she said.

Dr O'Reilly said there could be consultation, information sharing and engagement. She said the there was 'frustration' in the DMHG that such engagement could not occur but this was due to the enforced confidentially. 

"It would be consultation on the proposed plan. This is a proposed plan - I have met the mandate to get the plan to the Department and it is a Ministerial decision about policy," she said.

Dr O'Reilly said she would be open to meeting Laois and other TDs, public representatives and a delegation from the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee. She felt that now that the plan is in the public domain, consultation was needed.

She also wants to get a message out to the public and patients.

"This is a very good hospital with very good staff absolutely committed to providing safe care and right now they are finding that they feel hurt and worried that they might be viewed as anything other than the very good and excellent people that they are. 

"It is very important to say that the hospital is safe and the only concerns that we have around patient care relate to these low volume complex services and the challenges of transferring patients out for certain care," she said.

She said there has been engagement with individual clinical programmes within the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, the management of the hospital. She said 50 GPs out of 300 invited attended a meeting in 2015. She said there was a subsequent meeting with GPs which was also attended by current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

DOWNGRADE MISTAKES WILL NOT BE REPEATED IN PORTLAOISE SAYS HOSPITAL CHIEF