Deputy Denis Naughten has described plans by the Saolta University Hospital Group to delay reviews of both maternity and A&E services at Portiuncula Hospital as “very concerning”.
The review of maternity services was sought by families and staff at Portiuncula to provide parents with the facts of what happened to babies in the hospital’s care, and to ensure that the supports and staffing were put in place to sustain the second busiest maternity unit in the west of Ireland.
Deputy Naughten said: “Just last month I was told that we would have this report by the end of the year, but now it seems that it is to be pushed out again until early 2016. There has always been a fear that a report commissioned by the Saolta University Hospital Group would be used to implement a previous internal review to downgrade the maternity unit at Portiuncula Hospital. The further delay to the completion and publication of the report adds to these concerns.”
Deputy Naughten said the Saolta University Hospital Group is currently conducting a review of A&E services at all of its hospitals, and there is a fear that this will be used as a tool to downgrade the emergency department at Portiuncula. The review is not expected to be completed until after the upcoming General Election, and the fear is that it may follow the ‘Roscommon model’ of putting pressure on a new Health Minister to act quickly.
“Back in 2014 the Department of Health made a submission to the Budget which included a proposal to remove the 24/7 A&E from Portiuncula Hospital,” the Deputy said. “At that time Minister Leo Varadkar gave a guarantee that this would not happen under his watch. However, the current review will cause a lot of concern locally. If it were to be implemented, not only will patients have further to travel to avail of emergency care but it will push our over-stretched ambulance service beyond breaking point.”