The underestimation of the population of Laois by 6,000 and confirmation that capital funding has been paused has led Laois TD Brian Stanley to conclude that the plan for Portlaoise hospital is "not grounded in reality".
The Sinn Féin TD was speaking following what he described as a “long overdue” meeting with Dr Susan O'Reilly, Dublin Midlands Hospital Group Chief Executive.
Dep Stanley said the meeting with Dr O'Reilly and her senior management team in Dublin for nearly two hours on the proposal to remove maternity, paediatrics, most surgery, emergency and ICU from the hospital
“I told her she now needs to scrap the plan to downgrade Portlaoise Hospital and bring forward one to upgrade the services and capacity. I told her there was no support for the plan from the staff, unions or from the public.
"Amazingly, her team explained their plan is based on a population catchment area of just 80,000, where in fact there are 86,000 in Laois alone and this is not counting Offaly or South Kildare. This illustrates that the plan is not grounded in reality.
“She failed to explain where the 40,000 per annum emergency presentations to Portlaoise will be treated or how the plan is going to help the overall situation where emergency departments in other hospitals are already overflowing into the car parks.
"Regarding the ‘golden hour’ after a serious trauma, she tried to convey that people are somehow safer in the back of an ambulance, possibly stuck in traffic jams or travelling long distances on bad roads, than in an ICU or ED unit," said a statement.
The TD said he also questioned the DMHG on where the money was going to come from to increase capacity in other hospitals if Portlaoise was to be downgraded.
“I questioned the cost of their plan which they put at €113 million capital funding. I asked where is she going to find the money to cover the cost of implementing this, given that funding is not yet available for an urgently needed upgrade for Abbeyleix, which requires €3 million, or Monasterevin Day Care Centre which needs just half a million," he said.
He claimed that the plan to fund change is stalled.
"Dr O Reilly conceded that in fact the HSE capital plan is “paused” and that the €113 million doesn’t include funding for extra new ambulances that will be required to transport patients to Dublin or Tullamore!
"It is clear that Minister Harris must now scrap this outrageous set of proposals. It’s his decision and he and his government colleagues now need to make the right one,” he said.
The meeting followed a decision by Dr O'Reilly to meet with politicians and the public on the plan's contents in the wake of its leaking to a national newspaper. It was leaked after Dep Stanley obtained a five-year strategy which revealed downgrade.
She said she would have met the politicians in Laois before now if the Minister for Health had given the green light to do so.
“I am going to do it anyway now because the report has been leaked and they need to be informed. The whole point that this was a confidential report within the Department of Health. Now it has been leaked and it is only fair that I address the questions that arise," she told the Leinster Express.
She has said she is also willing to engage with the public and the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee.
The committee rejected her offer as too little too late.
Dr O'Reilly met consultants and management in Portlaoise last week.