Support hospital network in North East region and reject Teamwork report - Ó Caoláin
Speaking at a Sinn Féin seminar in Dundalk on the health services in the North East region Sinn Féin's Dáil leader and spokesperson on Health and Children Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said the removal of services from hospitals in the North East region (Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath) should be halted and the Teamwork Report recommendations for further centralisation of hospital services should be rejected. He went on to say the downgrading of hospitals had led to loss of lives and must be opposed.
Deputy Ó Caoláin called for optimum use of existing hospitals and said the new proposed regional hospital should provide services “in addition to and enhancing the five hospitals currently in place”.
The Cavan-Monaghan TD said: “The answer to the longstanding crisis in our hospital services in the North East lies in the reversal of decisions taken in recent years by Health Board and HSE managers at the behest of the Department and Minister of the day. We know we cannot have all services at all hospital sites but we believe firmly that our existing hospital network should be retained with essential services provided at all five and with specialist services available on an apportioned basis where appropriate.
“The Teamwork Report envisages only the most basic of care provision at all existing hospital sites. Minor injuries, routine diagnostics and Outpatient Clinics will be the order of the day. All surgical and medical emergencies and all A&E will be centred in the new regional hospital. What of travel times from all parts of the North East? What of the so-called Golden Hour? I am convinced that under this plan more people are actually being condemned to death because the doors of hospitals will be closed against them.
“The Teamwork Report presents an idealised picture of hospital services in the North East with the new Regional Hospital in place and with the five existing hospitals working under the new regime. But what happens in the meantime while we are waiting years for the new regional hospital to be built – if it is ever built? Already services have been downgraded further in Monaghan, Dundalk and Navan and ever more pressure is being placed on Cavan General Hospital and the Lourdes Hospital.
“Teamwork relies heavily on an ambulance service fully staffed with fully trained paramedics. We do not have such a service. Only a tiny proportion of ambulance crews – some 2% - are trained up to this level. Yet under Teamwork paramedics would be responsible for emergency care until patients reach the new regional hospital. It is cloud cuckoo land.
“Are we opposing a new regional hospital? Certainly not. But it must be a hospital that will provide services in addition to and enhancing the services provided at the existing five hospitals. Of course there will have to be major change and real improvement in the region. Key services and specialties will be located in the regional hospital. But our focus must be on services as near to the patient and as near to the community as possible.
“In our policy document Health in an Ireland of Equals we call for a halt to the ‘over-centralisation of hospital facilities and reversal of cutbacks in services at local hospitals’. We also propose:
‘Configure all hospitals to ensure that emergency services are available as locally as possible. For the vast majority of the population, these services should be located less than 45 minutes travel time away. No one should be more than one hour's travel time from an A&E Unit, when the three critical access factors are taken into account: hospital location, road conditions and ambulance provision.’
“This is the policy basis for our discussions today. And on this basis we reject the totally unacceptable Teamwork Report.”