Strategy for Portlaoise and other Dublin Midlands hospitals launched behind closed doors at HSE HQ

Portlaoise hospital  a&e

Light for Lives anti downgrade protest in Portlaoise. Pic: Denis Byrne

An extensive HSE plan for hospitals in Dublin, Kildare, Laois and Offaly that could culminate in the downgrade of Portlaoise hospital will be launched behind closed doors at the Health Service Executive HQ in Dublin.

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group Strategic Plan 2018-2023 is to be launched at Dr Steven's Hospital in Dublin at 3pm. The plan has been drawn up  by the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG).

It sets out a framework for services in Portlaoise, Tullamore, Naas, St James, Tallaght, the Coombe and St Luke's hospitals.

A DMHG spokesperson confirmed to the Leinster Express that the plan would be launched at the HSE HQ near Heuston Station. The Director General of the HSE Dr Tony O'Brien is likely to be present as would others in management. These include Mr Trevor O'Callaghan the acting chief executive officer of the DMHG.

Apart from being DMHG Chief Operating Officer, Mr O'Callaghan is the nominated chair the steering committee that would execute an extensive downgrade of Portlaoise hospital.

Members or the public or media have not been invited to its launch. A spokesperson said it was not unusual for plans to be launched 'internally'.

She said it was not the case that the launch was taking place in private to avoid a public protest as was likely to happen when the HSE was due to publish the document before Christmas.

The spokesperson said the pre-Christmas launch was postponed because senior members of management were unable to attend. The spokesperson said the DMHG had no issue with the right of the public to protest.

The plan sets out what former CEO described as a  blueprint for hospital services in Dublin and the Midlands. The Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee threatened to picket the original launch which was due to be held at Trinity College Dublin before Christmas.

However, it was widely reported that the launch was called off after the Minister for Health Simon Harris intervened. Invites were sent out to the pre-Christmas launch after Minister Harris told Laois TDs that he had not reached a decision and that he wanted to consult further on the plan.

A key plank of a draft plan of the plan was the ending of 24/7 A&E care in Portlaoise. The draft of the strategy leaked to Laois TD Brian Stanley before Christmas said it would "develop 24/7 General Practitioner referred medical assesment unit and 12/7 local injuries unit in the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise in line with national clinical care programmes models of care".

The draft plan sets out the expansion of other hospitals in particular Tullamore and Tallaght. 

The DMHG says it will issue a press release and publish the document sometime around the time of the internal launch taking place. It added that the plan leaked to Dep Stanley was a draft.

The strategy is linked to a plan for Portlaoise which was also leaked late last year. It outlines a detailed five year strategy for the reconfigure Portlaoise as a Category two hospital. 

Apart from A&E, other services would be withdrawn. These include maternity, paediatrics, ICU and most surgery.

News that the DMHG was to publish the strategy emerged in the same Irish Times story at the weekend that the HSE has a report on possible disciplining of staff over deaths of babies at Portlaoise. The HSE will not publish that report because it is 'in process'. 

The DMHG said before Christmas that the Strategic Plan is not related to the proposed Action Plan for Portlaoise. This plan remains under consideration by the Minister for Health for any future policy decision.

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