Demand for clarity on UHK future

University Hospital consultants fear facility may be downgraded

Simon Brouder

There are increasing calls for the HSE and the Department of Health to make a definitive statement on the future of University Hospital Kerry.

Last Friday a group of 24 consultants at the hospital met with CEO of the HSE South/South West Hospital Group (SSWHG) Gerry O'Dwyer to discuss their serious concerns about how the hospital is being managed.

In an unprecedented move the consultants previously wrote to the SSWHG warning that they cannot continue to operate at current levels unless urgent action is taken to increasing staffing levels and boost resources at UHK.

The consultants claim that the SSWHG has left UHK "unresourced and unsupported" and that they fear the hospital is under "significant threat" of a downgrade from a Level 3 Acute Hospital to a Level 2 facility offering much more basic levels of care.

Without a dramatic increase in funding and a major improvement in resources the UHK consultants say it will also be "impossible" to recruit new consultants to fill vacant posts.

At present the hospital is without a full-time cardiologist or respiratory physician while a pathologist is due to leave the hospital in the near future.

UHK's Clinical Director has temporarily stepped downMeanwhile a large number of consultants have left the hospital. These departures include exits from departments including the emergency department, radiology, obstetrics and gynaecology, paediatrics, cardiology and geriatrics.

Friday's meeting with Mr O'Dwyer was described as 'useful' but consultants expressed disappointment that no significant offer of funds was made.

If the matter is not resolved the consultants have threatened to go 'off-call' in protest, a move that could result in many Kerry patients being forced to travel to Cork for treatment outside of normal working hours.

Several politicians including Junior Minister Brendan Griffin; Deputy John Brassil and Cllr Toireasa Ferris - all of whom are General Election candidates - have expressed serious concerns about the future of the hospital.

Deputy Brassil and Cllr Ferris have echoed the consultants' concerns that UHK could be downgraded.

Meanwhile Minister Griffin has said that UHK is being overlooked for funding in favour of Cork University Hospital. He has also called on Health Minister Simon Harris to intervene personally.

The UHK consultants group have also called on Minister Harris to visit the hospital and see conditions for himself.

The South/South West Hospital Group and HSE did not respond to a request for comment.