If the Fine Gael party get into government Portiuncula Hospital will be run as a trust with greater autonomy and an ability to broaden its focus further, the party’s health spokesperson Dr James Reilly confirmed this week.
The former president of the Irish Medical Organisation shared his vision for the Ballinasloe hospital with management, staff and unions during his visit to the facility on Monday afternoon.
Accompanied by local TDs, Paul Connaughton, Ulick Burke and Denis Naughten (Rosc ) Dr Reilly said if he becomes health minister in a new government the east Galway hospital will be one of his priorities.
Deputy Connaughton says concerns about its future are uppermost in local people’s minds. More than 10,000 locals took part in a march through the town recently to voice their opposition to any plans to downgrade the hospital.
“One thing we noticed during our visit,s that if you were to talk to everyone from the medical director to the man who opens the door was the concern over the lack of clarity coming from the HSE about its future. This was on everyone’s lips yesterday, that erodes confidence.
“Monday was a day for the broad brush approach Fine Gael would have for Portiuncula. The big thing with us is a universal health model, following the Dutch one where there would be no two-tier system and there would the same health access for everyone. Dr Reilly talked about running Portiuncula as a trust whereby it would get x amount of money and would have greater autonomy. This would enable it to do other things, allow it to grow, to further develop the things it was good at and can do. The HSE would have very little to do with it.”
He says some services could be switched from University Hospital Galway to the Ballinasloe hospital. This would ease the pressure on the already overburdened regional hospital.
“We would be saying to let Portiuncula do the things it does well and efficiently - some services could be switched over from UHG. So many procedures being carried out there need not be done there, they could be done as well in Portiuncula. Dr Reilly said everybody knows there will be no open heart surgery in Ballinasloe, it’s not that size or complexity of disciplines sort of facility. Nor will there be cancer operations there, these are gone to the centre of excellence at UHG and everyone fully understands that.
“It’s hugely important that Portiuncula’s A&E remains open all the time and is not confined to 9am to 6pm hours for instance. Also that health conditions, such as strokes and heart attacks, continue to be cared for in Ballinasloe. The jewel in the crown is its maternity service, last year 2,200 babies were delivered there. It is regarded as one of the best and most efficiently run maternities in the country.”
Deputy Connaughton says the trade union IMPACT wants a written pledge from Fine Gael that it will “keep services as they are” at Portiuncula.
“James Reilly will be signing that pledge this week.”