Union fears newly expanded hospital manager role will downgrade Portiuncula hospital

The decision to expand the position of new general manager of Galway University Hospitals to include reponsibility for Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals may signal the beginning of a restructuring of hospitals in the area, the trade union IMPACT has claimed.

Padraig Mulligan, the local representative of the country’s biggest public sector union, alleged the HSE West is attempting to downgrade the Ballinasloe and Roscommon hospitals by instructing them to report directly to the general manager of University Hospital Galway rather than to their own managers.

The union claimed the decision to expand the scope of the Galway general manager - to incorporate both Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals – is the start of a restructuring of hospitals in the region which will see a downgrading of the skills mix and services available to people using Roscommon and Portiuncula hospitals.

It feared that local services and jobs will be transferred to Galway as part of the health authority’s plans to restructure health services in the region.

Following a meeting with Health Minister Mary Harney - who opened the new A&E and baby unit at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe recently - Mr Mulligan said she agreed consultation should take place with staff about proposals that Portiuncula Hospital should report directly to the general manager of UHG in future.

“I cannot say that the future of local jobs and services has been secured following today’s meeting,” said the union official. “But I can say that we have won the first battle of ensuring that there is proper consultation on the possible local impact of the HSE’s proposals.”

IMPACT had earlier written to Minister Harney seeking guarantees that there would be no further dilution of services at Portiuncula and Roscommon hospitals. It has also called on HSE boss Professor Brendan Drumm to outline the implications of the proposed change to local services.

Mr Mulligan said in other regions similar changes of reporting relationships had turned out to be early warnings that major concentrations of local services were being planned. “We believe that the revised reporting relationship and the transferring of ultimate managerial authority to University Hospital will have implications for the services to be provided at these two locations and as a consequence will have implications for local jobs.

“IMPACT is determined to stand shoulder to shoulder with the community to protect jobs and services in Ballinasloe. The HSE West plans will be bad news for local health services in the area and they will also lead to job cuts in a community badly hit by unemployment,” he claimed. “The so-called Celtic Tiger never called to Ballinasloe and this community can’t afford to lose more jobs in the recession.”

He said the Government had done nothing for the local community in a town where the major employers - Square D, AT Cross and Dubarry shoes – had closed. Both the community and our members are closely watching the response of Government TDs to this attack on the last big employer in the town,” he said.

In a statement the HSE West insisted local hospitals will not be downgraded as a result of the decision to expand the role of general manager.

“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.

“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.”


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