Mayo General Hospital is to be included in one of six new hospital groups being formed. The Castlebar facility will form part of a new hospital group in the west and northwest along with University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park, Sligo Regional Hospital, Letterkenny General Hospital, Portiuncula Hospital, and Roscommon County Hospital.
The announcement was made on Tuesday and welcomed by Bill Maher, CEO of the Galway and Roscommon hospital group. According to Mr Maher the new structure is good news for people living along the western seaboard. “The new hospital group will have autonomy to manage resources, both funding and staffing, in a way that is appropriate to the needs of the patients we treat. The group will work to national standards of quality and care which set out to ensure that the quality of care is consistent across all hospitals in the country. We will implement the national care programmes and the small hospitals framework and play to the strengths of each of the hospitals in the new group so that each hospital will develop services of which their locality will be proud,” said Mr Maher.
However the news was not welcomed locally by Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh, who called the restructuring an “apartheid situation” which she believes will have severe implications for people in Mayo and particularly north Mayo.
While it is not known how the newly formed group will impact on current services available at Mayo General, Cllr Conway-Walsh expressed grave concerns about the impact of the plan on Mayo patients. She feared that any downgrading or reduction of hours in the A&E at Mayo General would mean people from north Mayo experiencing life threatening emergencies would have to travel a three hour or longer journey to Galway. She said she had no faith that one air ambulance covering 26 counties would be sufficient to meet emergency medical needs.
“As it stands many very ill patients awaiting operations and procedures in Galway cannot get a bed or have to wait for weeks and months. How are they then going to accommodate the increased numbers which will come with transferring even more services?” she asked.
“We can see the pattern here; remove the beds from the district hospitals, pull back services from the community, close the beds and reduce the services in the general hospitals, starve them of resources and get everything ready for privatisation,” Cllr Conway-Walsh added.
However, Mr Maher felt the new hospital group would be empowered and accountable locally with money following the patient and in that way rewarded for good performance.
A number of public meetings will be held in the region with the first due to take place in Galway in June.