HSE plans to shake up hospital services across the south-east have been thrown into confusion with the resignation of the doctor leading the “re-configuration” process.
Clinical director at Wexford General Hospital Dr Colm Quigley has stepped down from the position as clinical head of the reconfiguration project for acute hospitals in the region. He remains in his Wexford post and has already been lauded locally for making a stand in defence of his general hospital.
Meanwhile, there is still no date for the publication of a report into the reconfiguration project which was due to be released sometime this month – having already been postponed by five months in April.
A meeting due to be held yesterday afternoon to discuss the reconfiguration process was called off at the last minute.
Campaigners in south Tipperary and Wexford have been expressing fears for months that the HSE is set to cut services – such as maternity wards and emergency wards – in their general hospitals and transfer them to Waterford Regional Hospital and, to a lesser extent, St Luke’s Hospital in Kilkenny.
Tens of thousands of people took part in protest marches held during the summer in Clonmel and Wexford to outline their opposition to any cutbacks in general hospital services.
Plans to release a report by the re-configuration group were already postponed in April and the report was due to be published for consultation later this month.
However, the HSE now says that it wants to “carefully consider” all options, “rather than meet any self-imposed deadlines”.
Dr Quigley could not be reached for comment last night, but was hailed by Labour Party TD for Wexford Brendan Howlin, who said the consultant had taken “a courageous stand” in defence of the hospital.
According to Mr Howlin, the cancellation of a meeting of the re-configuration group due to take place yesterday evening was further evidence that “damaging decisions” on hospital services across the south-east were about to be made.
Wexford Oireachtas members are due to meet senior HSE representatives today to discuss the re-configuration.
The HSE said in a statement that it was “with regret” they accepted the resignation of Dr Quigley as clinical lead of the re-configuration steering group. Regarding a replacement, it said the HSE will provide “appropriate clinical leadership” to the steering group as it continues its work.
Richard Dooley, HSE hospital network manager with the South Eastern Hospitals Group said: “Dr Quigley’s dedication to patient care and his vast commitments make it understandable that he would want to step down and instead concentrate on his role as clinical director of Wexford General Hospital.”
The HSE said no decisions have yet been made on any re-configuration proposal and that each of the four acute hospitals in the region – at Waterford, Kilkenny, Clonmel and Wexford – will continue to have a “meaningful role”.
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