Wednesday 13 December 2017

Future of Portlaoise Hospital 'under serious threat' in wake of baby death controversy

Portlaoise Hospital
Portlaoise Hospital
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

The future of the troubled Portlaoise Hospital is under serious threat and in time “will become no more than a community nursing home unit,” a group of doctors have warned.

The GPs said they understand a major report on the hospital – which was at the centre of controversy in recent years over baby deaths – will recommend that its emergency department be closed and that paediatric and maternity services be removed.

The draft report, which was commissioned in the wake of the controversy, has been sent to senior management in the HSE, the doctors added.

The concerns have been expressed by local GPs Michelle Byrne, Simon Honan, John Madden, Sean Montague, Mary Sheehan and Gerry White on behalf of the Laois Faculty of the Irish College of General Practitioners.

“In time the hospital will become little more than a community nursing unit. We have no doubt that this will have negative health consequences for our patients and the services users of the hospital.

“It will exacerbate negative patient experiences in the region and will result in needless and untimely deaths. It beggars belief that management purports downgrading Portlaoise to be in the interests of patient safety.”

They said that despite assurances from HSE management and public representatives that the future of Portlaoise would be secure, the evolving reality is not so.

“Promises of a consultative process with GPs and our hospital colleagues fell by the wayside. There has been no meaningful consultation with us. Indeed we believe that the clinical leads for each specialty  and management have been unable to reach consensus on how to safely secure the future of services at Portlaoise.”

They warned that trolley numbers remain at staggering levels despite approaching summertime.

“There is no capacity to facilitate our patients at any other centre in the group without huge capital investment. This cannot be achieved in a timely fashion.

“The current system cannot cope with effectively removing an entire hospital from the acute accident and emergency system. GPs have been in receipt of letters on almost a fortnightly basis regarding the emergency departments at Portlaoise and Tullamore stating that they are  at capacity asking us to avoid referring patients to the departments.”

They warned that having made significant gains in terms of patient safety and resourced the maternity services, management now plan to dismantle this and remove access to local maternity care for mothers.

“The Coombe Women’s Hospital is at capacity and will not cope with significant additional numbers from Portlaoise.”

There will be a rise in poor outcomes for young mothers and babies.

The doctors said that waiting list are unacceptable with some patients are facing delays of almost two years at Tullamore for ear nose and throat and orthopaedic services.

The doctors said that Laois GPs will continue to advocate on behalf our patients, community, families and friends who rely so dearly on a safe, well resourced fully functioning hospital, including emergency department, maternity paediatric departments.

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