Union vows to resist downgrade of Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals

Staff at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, and Roscommon County Hospital have vowed to resist attempts to downgrade their services, as it emerged there are plans to have staff report directly to the general manager of University Hospital Galway, rather than to their own managers.

IMPACT trade union, which represents some 200 staff between the two facilities, says the decision to expand the scope of the Galway general manager to incorporate both Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals is the start of a re-structuring of hospitals in the region, which will see a downgrading of the skills mix and services available. The hospitals at Ballinasloe and Roscommon are the main facilities serving the Athlone area.

The union has instructed its members not to cooperate with the move, and has received support from both SIPTU and the INMO. It has asked Health Minister Mary Harney to guarantee that there will be no further dilution of services at the two hospitals, and is also calling on HSE boss Professor Brendan Drumm to clearly outline the implications of the proposed change on local services.

The HSE confirmed yesterday that a decision has been taken to expand the remit of the Galway manager; however, it denied that any downgrading was on the cards.

“In the course of recruiting a new general manager for Galway University Hospitals, a national decision has been taken to expand the role to include Portiuncula Hospital and Roscommon County Hospital. There is no question of the downgrading of any hospital as a result of this expanded role,” said a HSE spokesperson.

“This decision has been made because of the need for greater integration of services for better and safer patient care, and to provide additional support to both hospitals. Full engagement will take place with all the stakeholders on this issue.”

However, assistant general secretary of IMPACT trade union, Padraig Mulligan, said staff and union members had “huge concerns” at the news, which was first confirmed by the HSE West’s former regional director of operations, Frank Murray on January 26.

“We have huge concerns based on experience with other hospitals. This is what happened originally in Ennis and Monaghan, and the HSE have downgraded these hospitals significantly since then. Now they are planning the same for Ballinasloe and Roscommon, which can’t afford to lose jobs.

“I have written to Mary Harney, and recognised the fact that money has been spent recently in Ballinasloe and Roscommon. But money was also spent in Ennis and Monaghan prior to their downgrading, and this is no guarantee. We are looking for a guarantee.”

Mr Mulligan added that neither staff nor their unions had been given the courtesy of any consultation or information on the move or its implications.

“It’s only fair and reasonable that staff and their representatives should be aware of any planned significant alteration of services within HSE West, be they positive or negative. Experience tells us that the HSE’s reluctance to consult with staff or service users means they are planning cuts and concentration of services,” he said.


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