“People will die unnecessarily” was the grim message from chairman of the Roscommon Hospital Action Committee, as the group prepared to meet yesterday evening [Thursday] to decide on the next step in their battle to save local hospital services.
Committee chairman John McDermott told the Advertiser that a public meeting was likely to be planned to give angry locals a chance to air their grievances over fears there are plans to cut its round-the-clock A&E services over time.
Spokesperson for the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine (IAEM ), John McInerney, said earlier this week that patients in several hospitals could be at risk unless the HSE clarifies which hospitals can maintain a 24-hour emergency department.
He said that a survey carried out by him and his colleagues found that several emergency departments, including at Roscommon County Hospital, would be short of junior doctors from July 11 onwards as junior doctors rotate posts as part of their training.
However, Mr McDermott feels the real issues are being sidestepped, and that local TDs’ pre-election promises to safeguard services are being forgotten.
“We knew there would be a problem with junior doctors, and we got an undertaking at election time that services would be maintained. Patients are now going to be put in ambulances and transferred to Galway, and people will die. Consultants at the hospital have said that people who have heart attacks, strokes, etc will die,” he said.
Concern for the future of services at Roscommon Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe follows the announcement that the provision of 24-hour emergency department services is to end this year at St Columcille’s Hospital Loughlinstown in Dublin.
It also emerged this week that the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA ) has recently received a report from the HSE outlining plans to downgrade Roscommon County Hospital.
“Of course we want safety for patients, and if a patient is lying in a bed [in Roscommon hospital] the best place for them to be is in Galway. But if a heart attack happens in Knockcroghery or Elphin, the patient would be better brought to Roscommon and stabilised first, and then transferred,” says Mr McDermott.
Fine Gael’s Deputy Denis Naughten met with Health Minister James Reilly this week to “express his deep concern regarding proposals to reduce the opening hours of the A&E department and outline the anger felt from the local community” served by Roscommon hospital.
He described the proposal to reduce A&E hours as “irresponsible”, “ill thought out and premature”.
A spokeswoman for the HSE West said: “We are currently examining a number of options in relation to Roscommon County Hospital and discussions are ongoing”.