Threats to the removal of vital surgical services at the midlands’ three hospitals have been met with strong opposition in Longford this week.
Portlaoise’s emergency department (ED) could become the latest victim of the crisis, after it emerged that the department at the hospital could face a reduction in its daytime minor injuries service in an effort to deal with ongoing shortage in doctors.
The HSE Dublin/Mid-Leinster said that the executive had taken a range of actions to address Non-Consultant Hospital Doctors (NCHD) shortages.
It has also emerged that if the service at Portlaoise is maintained, services at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar and Tullamore may have to be curtailed in an effort to deal with the staff shortages.
The Leader understands that weekly meetings are underway at the hospital to establish a contingency plan for emergency services in the midlands region after the July 11 NCHD changeover date.
One of the options being considered is that the Portlaoise unit receives only minor injuries and self-presenting surgical patients between the hours of 8am and 8pm, with the aim of emptying the department by 10pm each night.
A spokesperson for the HSE Dublin/Mid-Leinster said that the Executive had taken a range of actions to address NCHD vacancies over the past two years.
“The NCHD has tried to address the impact that the shortage of NCHDs has had on services and to ensure that patient safety is maintained,” explained the spokesperson.
“Given that this recruitment process is still ongoing and its outcome as yet unknown, it is too early to say which hospitals and what parts of the country might be affected and to what degree. The HSE Dublin/Mid-Leinster is planning for an anticipated shortage of junior doctors that may occur in some areas from July.”
“I have been saying that hospital services in our region would be affected negatively for the past three years and now here we are and look at what is happening,” Cllr Peggy Nolan (FG) told the Leader. “What’s lost in Portlaoise will have a negative impact on services at that hospital which is the orthopaedic centre of excellence for us here in the Midlands.
“There will also be a negative impact on services at Mullingar and Tullamore and I am calling on Minister Reilly to ensure that there is not a void left in hospital services in the midlands.”
A contingency plan, proposed by Dr Sean O’Rourke, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Midland Region said that there were options to reconfigure acute surgery and emergency services in the region because of the anticipated NCHD shortage including “the closure of Portlaoise to all acute surgical admissions, or the closure of both Portlaoise and Mullingar to all acute surgical admissions”.