The pending loss of a key clinician at University Hospital Kerry (UHK) could jeopardise surgical services and cancer screening services, according to Fianna Fáil health spokesman Stephen Donnelly.
The hospital’s only consultant pathologist gave notice of intention to leave last July and will finish up at UHK on December 31.
Mr Donnelly said one doctor he spoke to said there were concerns future histopathology work would be carried out by a locum, or with "some form of patchwork cover” from other hospitals in the South/South- West group, and if that were to happen, doctors at UHK “would find it very hard to stand over the clinical quality of the service.
The hospital is also without a full-time consultant cardiologist or respiratory physician.
Martin Schranz, an interventional radiologist at UHK, said without a pathologist on site, the close interaction between pathology, surgery and radiology in clinical practice in the hospital and in multidisciplinary meetings would be significantly compromised.
“My main interest, however, is interventional radiology and this will definitely be compromised if the close links with pathology are lost,” Dr Schranz said.
He said hospital management and management at group level had consistently failed to address staffing issues at the hospital.
“The persistent failure of both regional and local management to engage with consultants in order to resolve such issues is an ominous sign, not only for the future of the interventional radiology service in UHK, but also
for the future of this hospital as a Level 3 facility.”
In September the Irish Examiner reported that the consultant board at UHK had written to group management warning they could not continue to operate at current levels unless urgent action was taken to boost staffing and improve resources.
The consultants said the hospital was “unresourced and undersupported by the group” and it was becoming impossible to attract new consultants.
While UHK is currently a Level 3 hospital, catering for acute medical and surgical patients, and providing a 24-hour emergency department service, doctors believe it is under threat of becoming a Level 2 facility, which
would mean treating lowrisk medical patients only and putting ambulance by-pass protocols in place.
In October last year, the hospital was forced to undertake a review of more than 46,000 scans after concerns were raised about the work of a consultant radiologist.
Eleven patients were identified as having a missed or delayed diagnosis