HSE denies Mullingar A&E cutbacks
by Liam Cosgrove
The HSE has admitted bed capacity numbers at the Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar have fallen by ten per cent since August, less than a week after hospital overcrowding reached record levels.
Health officials confirmed a total of 26 beds were closed during the latter half of last year, not 53 closures as put forward by the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) late last week.
"A net total of 26 bedshave been closed at the Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingarsince last summer (and) that situation has not changed," a statement pointed out on Monday.
Last Thursday, a survey of various accident and emergency (A&E) departments found more than 28 people waiting for a bed at the Westmeath hospital, only a handful short of the worst affected hospitals in Cork, Limerick and Dublin. By Monday, the INMO said the crisis had eased somewhat with five patients found to be on trolleys and chairs. However by yesterday, Tuesday, the number of patients on trolleys at Mullingar had risen to 10.
Meanwhile the the INMO reacted said members were concerned about speculation that the A&E services at Mullingar and Portlaoise will be reduced from 24 hours to 12 hours.
"We are extremely concerned to hear such reports when the Midland Hospitals are already struggling to deal with the current A&E crisis," said Lorraine Monaghan, INMO industrial relations officer. "To curtail the level of service in either hospital would have major consequences for Tullamore which is currently bursting at the seams."
However, the HSE played down those concerns days later, insisting the concerns had not been debated at senior executive level.
"Claims by the INMO that the Emergency Department at The Midland Regional Hospital at Mullingar is closing from 8pm to 8am from next Monday is incorrect. There have been no discussions concerning such a move," a statement outlined.
Meanwhile, the HSE has asked members of the public experiencing flu like symptoms or who have come into contact with people suspected of displaying the virus to refrain from visiting hospitals in a bid to minimise the risk of contracting swine flu.
Seriously ill patients are also advised to contact their local GP before arriving at A&E departments for treatment. Other groups, identified as being high risk including pregnant women, pensioners and patients with long term health conditions, are likewise advised to avail of the winter flu vaccine in an attempt to prevent any further spread of the illness.