Surgical and diagnostic breast cancer services at Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar will be transferred to Galway in a few weeks, a meeting of the HSE West forum were told this week. Initially the services were to be moved in September, then the HSE said it would be December but now confirmation has been given that Mayo patients will start attending the centre of excellence in Galway in a few weeks. However no definitive date has been given for the move.
Alan Moran, network manager of acute hospitals in the west, made the announcement at Tuesday’s HSE West forum meeting, adding that once the service is working properly a similar model will be discussed for Sligo.
Fine Gael Councillor Eddie Staunton asked Professor Brendan Drumm, CEO of the HSE, who attended Tuesday’s meeting, if he was aware that a round trip from the barony of Erris to Galway was 400 miles. But Prof Drumm said he was well aware of how big the barony if Erris is, but added that people will go to wherever they have to to get the best treatment available.
However, the HSE CEO did admit that the issue of parking needed to be addressed in Galway and assured members that traffic problems, waiting times for appointments and waiting times when patients attend appointments would be continuously audited.
In a broader discussion on the Irish health service Prof Drumm admitted there were flaws in the system and said mistakes will happen. But he said the service is a lot further ahead than it was three years ago when he first addressed the HSE West forum members.
At that time, he said, people wanted bigger and broader hospitals but this was the last thing that the Irish people needed. Explaining why, Prof Drumm added that Irish people spend longer in hospital than the rest of the developed world and continue to be admitted to hospital days before surgery, taking them out of work unnecessarily and wasting hospital resources.
But he said the public are beginning to get a service that gets them in and out of hospital quicker. He appealed to the public to support the necessary changes while admitting that changes in some areas are more advanced than others.
He spoke of the importance of primary community care centres which will free up experts to deal with specialised areas and work on multi-disciplinary teams in the centres of excellence. He added that skilled jobs depend on people doing them regularly and the centres of excellence are an example of progression.
However Prof Drumm said it has taken a couple of years to convince all stakeholders and staff that in future they will work for the HSE in a particular area, where they are needed, and not solely for a particular hospital. For this to happen people will have to change how they work.
The appointment of clinical directors across the country is expected to ensure that people get the same standard of care in every county.
Prof Drumm expressed his disappointment at the lack of support for their moves to cut costs in the pharmacy sector which he said would free up money to improve frontline services.
Mayo Fine Gael Cllr Austin Francis O’Malley put it to Prof Drumm that the HSE was continuing to ignore the thousands of people who protested against the transfer of services from Castlebar to Galway. He also asked why all outpatients were given the same appointment time to attend appointments.
Cllr Patsy O’Brien raised the thorny issue of parking at University Hospital Galway.
Prof Drumm said the experts were clear that a centre of excellence could not be located in Castlebar but he promised that everything, down to the parking problems in Galway, would be audited.
He said the situation of not staggering appointment times was ridiculous and admitted that this system was not in place to benefit the public.