Smaller hospitals to lose night A&E and surgery in overhaul
Time is running out for several smaller hospitals across the country, which are set to lose round-the-clock emergency cover and complex surgery, it emerged yesterday.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said a number of hospitals are not treating a high enough volume of patients to justify holding on to these services.
However, officials yesterday refused to deliver a timetable for the changes, saying the decisions would have to be made at local level.
Several hospitals have already been identified as being in need of an overhaul, including Roscommon General Hospital; Portlaoise Hospital; St Colmcille's, Loughlinstown, Dublin; Mallow General; and Bantry General.
It follows confirmation by Health Minister James Reilly that Roscommon General Hospital will have an "urgent care centre" from 8am to 8pm, manned by hospital doctors, with GPs providing overnight cover.
The hospital will have access to diagnostics such as X-rays and a medical assessment unit, where patients can be referred.
GPs providing night cover will also have an X-ray service, which will be digitally connected to other hospitals.
"What has been available in Roscommon is not safe. People think the medical expertise to look after them if they have multiple car injuries or serious heart emergencies are available in the hospital but they are not. It is without a vascular surgeon or orthopaedic surgeon," Dr Reilly said.
Only around 30 patients a day are attending the hospital's emergency department.
"I am not going to be the minister for popularity. I am going to be the minister for safe healthcare," he added.
Meanwhile, doctors and HSE officials involved in drawing up plans to overhaul hospital services said only planned general surgery, rather than complex or emergency operations, should be carried out in smaller hospitals with lower volumes of patients.