Several of the extra staff who are needed to improve services at Portlaoise Hospital have still not been recruited, it emerged yesterday.
While a significant number of medical and nursing posts have been approved, several are still being "progressed," a spokeswoman for the Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed.
A HSE-commissioned review of the hospital in March recommended that its 24-hour emergency department be downgraded and that it be confined to providing low-risk surgeries and diagnostics.
The spokeswoman said yesterday measures have been taken to improve staffing levels since then and an emergency physician is now in place. Two more emergency consultants will also be hired.
An additional post for an advanced nurse practitioner has been advertise while the recruitment of 29 nurses is also being progressed.
She said the report identified a number of immediate actions to stabilise the hospital service and an action plan is in place. This includes improving management, addressing clinical weaknesses and making it part of the wider Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.
An "early warning" guideline aimed at making it easier for staff to spot a patient who is deteriorating has been put in place.
Commenting on the chances of the hospital's full emergency department being closed, she said any re-organisation of services has to be done in a planned and orderly way.
It would have to take account of the demands of patients in Portlaoise and in other hospitals. The changed role of Portlaoise hospital in the wider hospital group would also have be established.
The hospital's maternity unit was thrown into turmoil earlier this year after it emerged four babies died there since 2006 in similar circumstances. It led to a preliminary inquiry by the chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan. Another report is due later this year from HIQA.