Patients forced to travel after surgery unit axed
MORE than 1,500 patients, some of them elderly, face a 'hospital merry-go-round' to undergo surgery they could previously have received locally, angry doctors warned yesterday.
They were reacting after the sudden decision to end all acute and emergency surgery at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan, leaving patients having to travel to facilities in three other counties, Dublin, Louth and Cavan.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said the decision was made in the "interest of providing the highest quality of service to patients and followed clinical advice".
It means common operations including gall bladder surgery, appendectomy or hernia surgery can no longer be carried out at the hospital, leaving its three surgeons under-used.
Commenting on the move, Meath GP Niall Maguire said patients who could have had these basic-to-intermediate operations done locally would now have to travel to Beaumont, the Mater or Connolly Hospital in Dublin, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, or Cavan General.
"Navan is not a suburb of Dublin, and for elderly people who have no transport it will mean having to go for outpatient follow-up care to Beaumont or Dublin.
"This is management by bulldozer by people who can afford to go to private hospitals themselves," Dr Maguire added. He said an audit of the surgery at the hospital showed that standards were high and an independent report also concluded that Navan could function well as a treatment centre for hernias, no-emergency keyhole surgery and ambulatory surgery.
The HSE said the hospital's emergency department would continue to function on a 24-hour, seven-day-week basis but patients who arrived in need of acute or emergency surgery would be transferred elsewhere.
It said that on average the hospital dealt with four emergency surgical admissions a day, with one of these needing an operation within 24 hours.
Patients needing non-surgical procedures will be referred to outpatient, daycase or inpatient surgical services.
Patients needing acute medical treatment for conditions like stroke, cardiac arrest and diabetes will continue to be admitted to Navan. Orthopaedic operations, which are provided in a separate facility on the grounds of the hospital, will also continue as normal.
Dr Maguire, who is spokesman for the Meath faculty of the Irish College of General Practitioners, said he feared for the future of the hospital's emergency department.
The problems are compounded by the low ratio of GPs in the county: there are 35 per 100,000 of population in Meath, compared to a national average of 57 per 100,000.