Hospital faces investigation after safety complaints
A HEALTH watchdog agency is to conduct a full investigation into the safety and standard of care at an Irish general hospital.
The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is to conduct an independent audit of Mallow General Hospital (MGH) in Cork.
It emerged that the HIQA move followed complaints levelled in recent months about the facility.
However, campaigners for the hospital warned last night that the inquiry should not be used as a back-door method of downgrading the facility.
Labour TD Sean Sherlock said he was "deeply concerned" the move smacked of suggestions that HIQA was buying into the long-standing Health Service Executive (HSE) agenda of downgrading the hospital.
"This is a very serious move and runs totally contrary to the fantastic patient reports and satisfaction rates with MGH over many, many years," he added.
"There is no way that this move should be associated with or used to support any downgrading attempt for MGH."
Hospital supporters have repeatedly warned in recent years that they would not tolerate "a campaign by stealth" to undermine its status as an acute hospital.
For almost 30 years, there have been doubts about that status, largely because of its proximity to Cork city where there are three major hospitals, Cork University Hospital, the Mercy University Hospital and the South Infirmary-Victoria University Hospital.
Later this year, Cork will also have two major private hospitals in operation.
MGH preserved its acute status following the health cutbacks in 1987 through a successful High Court challenge.
However, concerns over the hospital's funding and staff allocation have risen in recent years.
The hospital has 76 beds and an accident and emergency unit.
It caters for a catchment area with a population of more than 100,000 people in North Cork, South Tipperary, South Limerick and parts of North Kerry.
The HSE has been reconfiguring its hospital operations in Cork and Kerry -- and last year unveiled a pioneering Emergency Medical Science (EMS) scheme whereby specially trained paramedic teams will be available in specific regional areas.
The new EMS initiative will offer 24-hour, round-the-clock advanced paramedic coverage using specially equipped ambulances.
The HSE has denied that service would, in any way, downgrade or undermine existing hospital-based medical services.
The HIQA probe will be conducted under Section 9 of the Health Act (2007), with the review team having sweeping powers. All aspects of hospital's operations come under the scope of the review.