Calls for a CUMH chief to protect services

The existing management structure at the country’s newest maternity hospital needs to be replaced and it needs its own CEO and budget to ensure its services are protected.

Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) needed “a separate governance model” with “a separate CEO” because the existing CEO, Tony McNamara, had lost the confidence of consultant staff.

Dr Boylan said Mr McNamara, had “lost the dressing room” and that “his players no longer support him”.

This was due to ongoing failure to address the crisis in the maternity hospital’s gynaecology service where almost 4,200 women are currently awaiting outpatient appointments, of whom approximately 800 are waiting more than a year-and-a-half.

Dr Boylan’s comments follow revelations in yesterday’s Irish Examiner that a group of approximately 20 consultants at CUMH wrote to Mr McNamara warning they would no longer take responsibility for women who suffered “adverse outcomes” as a result of excessive waiting times.

They have repeatedly warned in letters seen by this newspaper that women’s lives are being put at risk as a result of delayed cancer diagnosis and other serious gynaecological illnesses because they are not being treated on time.

Dr Boylan said CUMH was “an exemplar of how maternity services should not work and how they don’t work well”.

He said it was “very unusual” for a group of consultants to write to the CEO of the hospital that they are working in to express their unhappiness, but that they had been “stonewalled for a considerable time”.

Labour TD Seán Sherlock, who raised the matter in the Dáil recently, said Health Minister Simon Harris needed to intervene directly “to ensure proper governance is in place and that no one person is operating within his own silo”.

“This issue [gynaecology waiting lists] exposes the flaws in the CUH group management structure. This isn’t necessarily about finances, it’s about people protecting personal fiefdoms in the HSE,” Mr Sherlock said.

Fianna Fáil health spokesperson Billy Kelleher said he intends to again raise the need for greater investment in CUMH in the Dáil this week. He said more resources were needed in the short-term, but that structural changes may be required in the long term.

Mr Kelleher and Mr Sherlock are among the TDs and Senators from Cork city and county who have received a political briefing from Independent Senator Colette Kelleher on the crisis at CUMH on the advice of a lead consultant.

The briefing, seen by the Irish Examiner, says the long waiting times have “devastating consequences for women and their families” and that the situation at CUMH is “unprecedented” and “worthy of national attention”.

Among the solutions consultants are seeking is the opening of a second gynaecology theatre five days a week; a gynaecology day unit (drawn up and costed in 2013 but still on the capital projects waiting list for prioritisation); the building of a gynaecology one-stop shop, costed as part of the Gynaecological Cancer Service Plan in 2014 to facilitate extra gynaecology clinics, and the employment of a minimum of four additional consultant gynaecologists.

A statement from the South/SouthWest Hospital Group of which CUH and CUMH are part, said the area of obstetrics and gynaecology “is a vital service” for the group and a “high priority issue as evidenced by the establishment of a group clinical directorate for the service”.

It said the provision of a second gynaecology theatre at CUMH was part of the group plan for the service and that management at CUMH was “satisfied that the way to maximise gynaecology activity is through an integrated approach with other departments in the hospital”.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Dr Boylan described the statement as saying “an awful lot, but it actually says nothing”.

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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