Two of Galway’s public hospitals will come under increasing pressure if a proposal to close Roscommon County Hospital’s A&E department in a fortnight’s time goes ahead, a local trade union official warned this week.
While the Health Service Executive insists “no final decision” has been made on the issue there are growing fears that the department will close in addition to other services being withdrawn from the hospital.
This will impact on University Hospital Galway and Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe, says Padraig Mulligan, the assistant general secretary of IMPACT locally.
He and union leaders from SIPTU and the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation met HSE management last evening (Wednesday ) to find out the future of Roscommon’s emergency department. There was no update available at the time of going to press.
Portiuncula Hospital has already reported an increase in the number of patients it treats from Co Roscommon, he says.
“This increase has been noticeable particularly in the last six months and is due to positions in Roscommon hospital not being filled, such as physiotherapy for instance. If its A&E service closes there will be a further increase and contingency plans must be made for this.
“While the HSE has not definitely said what the position is in relation to the department the Taoiseach says services as we know them in Roscommon will no longer be there. There is talk of moving to a ‘Louth model’ - from an emergency department to a seven day minor injury unit. Then all emergency services would bypass Roscommon and there would be an increase in services in UHG, Portiuncula, Mayo, Sligo and Mullingar.
“The biggest effect would be on Galway and Sligo because of the services these hospitals provide which are currently not provided in Portiuncula. There would be an increase in the number of people going to UHG and a subsequent increase in waiting times and people on trolleys.”
He says Portiuncula Hospital is coping with existing service demands. “While it will not be found wanting re the people of Roscommon we will not try in any way to undermine the efforts of Roscommon people to retain what they have.”
He states there is a “significant” number of services at UHG which could move to other hospitals in the vicinity thus reducing pressure on the already overburdened regional hospital.
“There is talk of services, such as ear, nose and throat moving from there to Portiuncula and Roscommon.”
East Galway Fianna Fail TD Deputy Micheal Kitt agrees that if Roscommon’s A&E closes further pressure will be piled on UHG and Portiuncula.
“There is a lot of pressure now on hospitals, there always was on UHG, and now there is going to be more added on.
“Portiuncula is already a busy hospital too and any change like that involving Roscommon would put more pressure on it.”
In a statement the HSE West said while no final decision has been made regarding Roscommon’s emergency department, the shortage of non consultant junior doctors and HIQA’s concerns regarding patient safety means there will be changes to how services are being delivered at the hospital, including A&E.
“There are a number of proposals under consideration as part of an ongoing
planning process in conjunction with hospital staff, local GPs and the ambulance service.”