Government will never be forgiven if it closes critical A&E units

11 July 2016

“Plan is designed to dismantle publicly funded emergency care” states Willie Penrose TD.

The proposals emanating from an expert group and being submitted to the Department of Health and the HSE to close nine A&E units across the country are dangerous and could put lives at risk.

The proposition stymied by the last government but which continues to be pursued with such persistence is a grave assault on the public health service.

Nowhere more so than in the midlands and mid-Leinster where the hospital units in Mullingar, Naas and Portlaoise are being targeted.

This will leave an entire swathe of the most heavily populated part of the country without adequate 24 hour emergency care at major hospitals.

Over 300,000 people will be put at unnecessary risk due to this flawed policy which needs to be halted at once and requires the unequivocal intervention of the Minister for Health and his Fianna Fail counterpart, as part of the government agreement. This assault on the public health system cannot be allowed stand and if it occurs on their watch it will never be forgotten and they will never be forgiven.

Patient safety will be put at serious risk by this draconian plan to slash the number of A&E’s countrywide from 29 to 20. It is a text book exercise in book balancing and theory, which has no basis in the reality of service provision on the ground, the historical under resourcing and staffing of these units, and the current excessive demands on all these centres 24/7.

The dogs on the street know that the existing A&E units are overcrowded, stretched to the limit and in dire need of additional resources, not cutbacks. Patients on trolleys and day long queues at these A&Es know all this full well as do nurses, ambulance drivers and other full time staff, who have constantly highlighted their well-founded concerns. 

Now the response from the Department and HSE is to move forward with a plan to shut down busy A&E units, downgrade the hospitals in Mullingar, Portlaoise and Naas in addition to six other centres. This will merely compound the problems of delays at the already dangerously overstretched emergency units at hospitals like Tallaght and Tullamore. If implemented the proposals would also put unbearable and unsustainable pressure on local and rural GP services, particularly out-of-hours.

They haven’t got the resources and can’t cope with any additional demands, let alone the large influx of patients that would flow from this ill-judged plan. Neither is the ambulance service designed or capable of handling the transfer of patients and by-pass protocols which would drive this latest grand theory of the HSE management. 

“Ostensibly, these proposals are based on patient safety, but this is anything but”, insists Labour TD, Willie Penrose. “Children don’t just get sick 9 to 5; elderly people don’t only take ill during the day; accidents most often occur on the dead of night. Where are these people to go? Not everyone can get to the Beacon or Blackrock private in the middle of the night. This plan is grievously flawed and must be stopped in its tracks by the Minister and those calling the shots in this government.

“The claim is that these A&E units are not safe at night. That they don’t have an emergency consultant on call or sufficient resources. Well then if that’s the case, the answer is not to close them, but to staff them, make them safe. I won’t stand for anything less.”

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