Reilly cites 'startling' mortality rates to close A&E
PATIENTS with heart problems are four times more likely to die if they attend Roscommon Hospital, rather than the University Hospital Galway, Health Minister Dr James Reilly claimed last night.
His warning came as the people of Roscommon had their worst fears realised with confirmation that the A&E department at the county hospital is to close from Monday. It will be replaced by an urgent care centre during the day and an out of hours GP service overnight, the HSE said.
The new arrangements were greeted with dismay by hospital staff and activists who have been working since the 1970s to retain vital services in Roscommon.
However, according to statistics from a draft report, the mortality rates for patients with heart problems in the past three years were 5.8pc for University Hospital Galway compared to 21.3pc in Roscommon. That meant that for every 100 people who attended each hospital with a heart problem, an average of five would die in Galway but an average of 20 would die in Roscommon.
Dr Reilly revealed the statistics last night during a Dail debate calling on the Government to retain accident and emergency departments at local hospitals such as Roscommon.
"The statistics in it are rough statistics but some of them are so startling, I don't think you can really ignore them," he said.
The Department of Health confirmed that the figures were gathered by the Hospital In-Patient Enquiry Scheme, a computer-based system, and then analysed by its chief medical officer in the department. Dr Reilly said the fact that the mortality rate (for patients with heart problems) was four times higher in Roscommon Hospital than in University Hospital Galway was not the fault of the doctors there.
"That's a reflection of the fact that the skill-sets aren't there, that the back-up isn't there, that there's no intervention cardiologists, that's there's no multiple trauma team there, the fact there's no facility to put a stent in, which is now the standard of care that's required," he said.
Mr Reilly said there was a 25pc increase in survival rates if a person was treated in a bigger hospital -- even if it was more than an hour away.
However, in Roscommon a number of nurses were clearly distressed after being briefed by HSE management at the hospital yesterday afternoon, while consultant surgeon Oliver Clinton refused to even meet with the HSE management team.
Hundreds of protestors are expected to travel from Roscommon to the Dail today for the conclusion of a health debate today.
Local TDs will be watched closely when they vote on a Sinn Fein motion calling for the retention of existing services at smaller hospitals.
Roscommon Hospital Action Committee chairman John McDermott said: "We are absolutely disgusted at the HSE announcement. It's a total withdrawal of the A&E in Roscommon."
Regional director of operations for the HSE John Hennessy refuted the claims and insisted that the new arrangements would actually provide a safer service for the people of Roscommon.
He pointed out that the urgent care centre would operate from 8am to 8pm seven days a week. It would be supported by an enhanced ambulance service and the existing medical assessment unit.
The out of hours GP service would be located on the hospital grounds and would operate from 6pm to 8am daily, he said. Patients requiring acute emergency services would be transferred to one of four alternative hospitals, Galway University, Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, Sligo, or Mayo General in Castlebar.
Dr Reilly was criticised last night by Fianna Fail TD Billy Kelleher who said that he had given a "cast iron guarantee" that services at Roscommon Hospital would be retained.
Meanwhile, a medical expert said the 'golden hour' concept is out of date. Dr Cathal O'Donnell, said its based on research carried out in the USA in the 1970s on a small group. He said the world has since moved on.