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Patients will die if promised extra ambulance diverted from Monaghan – Ó Caoláin

12 October, 2008

Sinn Féin Health & Children spokesperson and Cavan-Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has been informed by reliable sources from within the Health Service Executive that a promised additional A&E ambulance is not now going to be stationed at Monaghan. The HSE had claimed, as recently as last month, that the extra A&E ambulance "must be in place" at Monaghan before the removal of all acute care from Monaghan General Hospital to Cavan General Hospital as planned for the end of November.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Reliable sources at senior level within the HSE North East have informed me that the promised additional A&E ambulance is not now going to Monaghan. I understand that the HSE are giving serious consideration to locating the promised A&E ambulance with its 24/7 advanced paramedic and the promised patient transport system at Ardee in Co. Louth.

"While never accepting that the HSE-promised measures compensated for the loss of acute medical services at Monaghan General Hospital, the proposal to locate the new A& E ambulance at Ardee would be a disastrous decision if it is allowed to proceed. Patients will die if the promised ambulance cover is not provided at Monaghan. With the removal of acute care from Monaghan General Hospital to Cavan General Hospital the people of Co. Monaghan will be left with neither the acute in-patient care service they have had for decades nor the absolutely essential additional ambulance cover that must be provided if the final downgrading of Monaghan goes ahead at the end of November.

"In a letter to me of 3 September the HSE lists 'measures that must be in place prior to the centralisation of Acute Inpatient Services at Cavan General Hospital'. These include 'an additional 24-hour emergency ambulance at Monaghan Ambulance Station, an increase of 1 or 50% i.e. from 2 to 3 ambulances'.

"Are we now to see the HSE breaching even its own conditions for the final downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital? If this ambulance cover is not provided as promised the removal of acute care cannot and must not proceed.

"As things stand in this 4-county region, Louth has 3 ambulance stations providing 5 A&E ambulance day cover and 4 A&E ambulance night service; Meath, has 2 ambulance stations providing 3 A&E ambulance day cover and 2 A&E ambulance night service with the same configuration in Co. Cavan.

"In stark contrast Co. Monaghan has one ambulance station based in Monaghan town with 2 A&E ambulances providing day and night cover. Yet ambulances based at Monaghan will have the furthest distance to travel to hospitals providing acute in-patient care.

"There are currently 3,000 acute medical admissions to Monaghan General Hospital per annum. By the end of November, if the HSE's plan goes ahead, this service will have to be provided by Cavan General Hospital. With longer journeys and fewer ambulances the only outcome can be more avoidable deaths of Monaghan patients.

"I urge Monaghan and Cavan residents, irrespective of what views they hold, to recognise that these are very likely the final weeks of the once great hospital we have all known and appreciated in Monaghan. It is incumbent on all of us, and without exception, to press by telephone, by letter, by e.mail, by texting, by visiting where possible, the HSE, the Minister for Health & Children Mary Harney TD, An Taoiseach Brian Cowen TD, the Government Minister who represents this constituency of Cavan/Monaghan, Brendan Smith TD, and his Fianna Fáil Dáil and Seanad colleagues Rory O'Hanlon, Margaret Conlon and Diarmuid Wilson.

"Everyone must join in this 11th hour appeal. No effort must be spared. The future of our hospital services and of our own health security and that of our children depends on it." ENDS

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