Guarded welcome for Higgins Report – Cullinane
Waterford Senator David Cullinane has given a guarded welcome to the publication of the Higgins Report, saying it represents some positive development, but that concerns remain about long term future of Waterford Regional Hospital.
Senator Cullinane was speaking from Leinster House today, where he noted that while some concerns remained, people power had been successful in safeguarding services.
“I believe that the report been published by the cabinet today, which was long overdue, can be given a guarded welcome.
“The report effectively recommends the breakup of the existing South East Hospital network, aligning Wexford and Kilkenny Hospitals with various Dublin Hospitals and Waterford Regional Hospital with Cork University Hospital.
“However, we have obtained a commitment to make Waterford a university teaching hospital, a commitment to 24/7 cardiology services and retention of tertiary services.
“Since I broke this news several months ago, there has been a large focus nationally on the future of the Regional Hospital.
“I believe that a combination of people power from campaigners and the work of politicians in government and opposition has made a considerable difference to the outcome.
“We haven’t got the best possible solution, but government has been forced through pressure to see difficulties with the breakup and mitigate against them.
“Our core concern throughout was the protection of tertiary services at the hospital, and in particular, cardiology, trauma care and cancer care.”
“I very much welcome the commitment to retain these, as well as the designation of the hospital as a teaching hospital, and the commitment to ensure 24/7 cardiology services.
“However, real concerns exist in relation to the breakup of the region, and what this will mean for patient care.
“We need to secure and lockdown clinical pathways from Wexford and Kilkenny hospitals to WRH. Any leak of patients to hospitals in Dublin could undermine services WRH and it would have a negative effect on patient care and safety.
“We have some concerns relating to the autonomy of the Hospital, and specifically the movement of control and management, from Waterford to Cork, and that needs to be guarded against.
“This report comes in the context of a health system which is greatly struggling, and a government health policy which is falling apart. Hospitals across state, and in particular regional hospitals are struggling with the same two-tier, inequitable health system that we had under Fianna Fáil with the same widespread health inequalities, the same excessive GP fees for people who do not fall below the very low medical card income qualification threshold, hospital waiting lists increasing, numerous beds lost and considerable loss of services, and staff.
“Any reform of the Health system has to be put in that context.
“The key priority for Waterford is the need to maintain services – the government’s words have to be backed up by actions.
“While we welcome the report, we remain concerned around long term viability of services at the hospital and we will be seeking further guarantees in the days ahead.”