Minister Simon Harris accused of 'deliberately undermining' Portlaoise hospital

Laois TD Sean Fleming demands that Minister get Leo Varadkar's approval to scrap downgrade plan

Conor Ganly

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Conor Ganly

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Portlaoise hospital hse a&e laois

Portlaoise hospital Light for Lives protest in November 2017.

The Minister for Health Simon Harris should get approval from Leo Varadkar and other Ministers to scrap the HSE's plan to downgrade Portlaoise hospital, according to Laois TD Sean Fleming.

By not doing so, the Fianna Fáil TD, accused Minister Harris of 'undermining' the hospital's future when he raised the issue in the Dáil on Thursday, April 19. 

Dep Fleming said the final version of HSE's Dublin Midlands Hospital Group proposal is with the Minister since September 2017 in relation to the Hospital in Portlaoise.

He said it includes closing the Emergency Department, maternity and paediatric departments, the Intensive Care Unit and 
ceasing all inpatient surgery.

"Minister there is a report on your desk to effectively eliminate all the key services in this hospital.  For seven months you have allowed that report to sit on the desk and by doing so you are deliberately contributing to the undermining of the future of the services in the hospital.  Minister, there is only one thing required and that is for you to formally get Cabinet approval to reject this report," he siad.

Dep Fleming said this report was drafted by the HSE and after detailed engagement between the Department officials and the HSE.

"At this stage the future of Portlaoise Hospital is out of the hands of the HSE and is in your hands, the hands of the Cabinet and Government.  Nobody else can make a decision on this matter, except yourself.

"Therefore it is up to you to bring the uncertainty regarding the future of the hospital in Portlaoise to an end. This uncertainty is undermining and causing detrimental damage to the future of the hospital," he said.

The Laois TD said he rraised this matter in the Dáil last November and no detailed answers were given on that day.  He added that the Oireachtas members for Laois met with Minister Harris in December 2017 where the Minister committed to a process of consultation with local GPs and the community.  

The Laois TD said he tabled a Parliamentary Question this week asking who is chairing this consultation process, what meetings have taken place and what is the timescale for the conclusion of this process.

"Your reply to me was that you had “asked for a consultation process and this is currently under consideration”.  This is totally unacceptable that seven months after you have received the report this consultation process has not yet commenced.

"I stated clearly to you last September what is needed now is a rejection of this report in its entirety and arrangements to be put in place to improve the services in the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.

"The continued delay while this report is sitting on your desk is undermining the confidence of the staff who work in Portlaoise. It is undermining the confidence of the patients and people who may wish to use this service.  It is also undermining the potential recruitment of essential staff that are needed to work in this hospital.

"Why would people take up senior medical posts in the hospital be they consultants, doctors or nursing staff when the future of this hospital is not clear," he said.  

He reiterated his appeal for uncertainty to end.

"Minister, the time has come for you to end the uncertainty which is damaging Portlaoise Hospital.  At this time you are the sole person responsible for this uncertainty as you received this report last September.  You should have rejected the report there and then. As you did not do so then, you must do so now," said Deputy Fleming.

Thousands of people marched in Portlaoise last November in a protest demanding the scrapping of the downgrade plan.