Wednesday 21 August 2019

Harris faces backlash over hospital downgrade

Considering plan: Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Considering plan: Health Minister Simon Harris. Photo: Colin O'Riordan
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Health Minister Simon Harris is under fire for refusing to meet senior HSE and other managers about a potentially politically explosive plan to downgrade Portlaoise Hospital, including removing its A&E.

The action plan, submitted in December from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, warns patients may be at risk unless major changes are made.

The hospital is struggling because of a failure to find enough experienced specialists and to equip a fully functioning intensive care unit.

Core maternity services and paediatric services should be removed, it suggested.

Repeated efforts by managers to secure a meeting with the minister about the plan have failed.

The downgrading has ignited strong local opposition with angry public meetings. Portlaoise is in the constituency of Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan.

In response, the Department of Health claimed yesterday the minister is fully appraised of the contents of the draft report but is ensuring that it is thoroughly considered in the context of a range of important issues including bed capacity, demographic needs, future population in the Midlands, hospital group configuration and Sláintecare.

"It is being reviewed in detail. Once there is an agreed position on the draft plan, it is intended there will be further engagement with all parties," it said.

Irish Independent

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