Sunday 18 February 2018

Proposals to cut hospital services are dismissed as 'crazy'

Independent Alliance junior minister Seán Canney. Photo: Tom Burke
Independent Alliance junior minister Seán Canney. Photo: Tom Burke
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Proposals to downgrade Emergency Departments (ED) at hospitals around the country have been dismissed by ministers and TDs who called them "premature", "crazy" and the "depth of illogicality".

The Trauma Steering Group, established by the last government, is set to propose cuts to services at nine hospitals.

Serious trauma cases involving car crash victims and patients with broken bones would instead be sent to the nearest major hospital where there are more specialist doctors in place, according to a leak of the yet-to-be-published report.

However, with the Fine Gael minority Government relying on the support of Independents and Fianna Fáil - and its own TDs who may oppose cuts in their areas - it's unlikely the measures would pass.

One of the hospitals, Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, is in Independent Alliance junior minister Seán Canney's constituency. He said any talk of cuts to services is "premature" while the ED at University Hospital Galway is "not fit for purpose".

He said the biggest complaint there was patients on trolleys in the ED. "I can't see any logic in adding more pressure to that."

He said the Government will examine the report but acknowledged that TDs across the spectrum will oppose cuts in their areas.

Wexford Fianna Fáil TD James Browne said: "This is crazy stuff. The idea of shutting down nine A&Es."

He added: "It's instilling fear into people" and that he would fight any downgrading of services at Wexford General "tooth and nail". On the likelihood of the proposals being implemented, he said: "It's very difficult to see it happening but it's impossible to see why it should happen."

Junior defence minister Paul Kehoe's spokeswoman said he had already received assurances from Health Minister Simon Harris that there are no plans for cuts in Wexford.

Labour's Willie Penrose said the Midlands Regional Hospital Mullingar is the only hospital on the N4 road and takes patients from surrounding counties. He said cutting services there would be the "depth of illogicality", adding: "What they should be looking at is beefing it up with the necessary consultancy staff."


Fine Gael Kildare North TD Bernard Durkan said he believes details of the proposals that emerged in the 'Sunday Business Post' are "speculative".

He said his local hospital at Naas has seen significant investment and is "well capable of doing its job". "I would be worried if it's going to happen but it's not going to happen," he said referring to any downgrading.

The other hospitals listed in the report are Cavan General, Portlaoise Hospital, St Luke's Kilkenny, Tipperary General and Mercy University Hospital in Cork.

Mr Harris's spokeswoman said: "There are no plans to close or remove services from Emergency Departments."

She said former health minister Leo Varadkar set up the steering group at the request of surgeons who wanted "to examine the concept of a trauma network in our hospitals" but that it has not yet reported and Mr Harris has not yet seen "any output from the group."

Irish Independent

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