The Tánaiste has said the Government has “no intention” of closing any emergency departments but has admitted the system must be overhauled.
Frances Fitzgerald accused opposition parties of scaremongering for raising reports that nine emergency departments are under threat of downgrading, shorter hours or closure of some kind and the removal of trauma facilities from them.
However, she added that a review of the “current fragmented arrangements for dealing with trauma in hospitals” is being carried out, and in some trauma cases, such as those involving car accidents, may be better off in centralised treatment centres.
Details revealed in the Sunday Business Post at the weekend showed a draft copy of the Government’s draft report of its trauma steering group that proposed cuts to services at nine hospitals.
The hospitals — Cavan General, Naas, Portiuncula in Ballinasloe, Kilkenny, Wexford, South Tipperary, Clonmel, and the Mercy University Hospital in Cork City — could now face cuts to trauma care services and these services would instead by amalgamated.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin told the Dáil that emergency departments are already struggling to cope with overcrowding and any closures would be unacceptable.
“There was a time when the rows were over whether there would be an emergency department in a county,” said Mr Martin. “Based on this report, there will be regions without emergency departments if this trend continues.
“In the east, there is the potential for nothing in between Waterford and Dublin, with Kilkenny and Wexford taken out.
“In the Midlands, there will be nothing between Tullamore and Tallaght in Dublin.
“In Cork, we have seen closures in the South Infirmary, Mallow, and Bantry, down through the years.”
Ms Fitzgerald said that a draft report has yet to be completed, but added that the purpose of the study is to ensure “we do the best for patients who suffer traumatic injuries and make sure they go to the right place, where they will get the best health care”.
“It is not about closing or changing the arrangements in regard to emergency departments,” said Ms Fitzgerald.
Responding to similar questions from Sinn Féin’s Louise O’Reilly, the Tánaiste said: “There is no need for people going past their hospital emergency department tonight to have the kind of concern the deputy is outlining that raise anxiety unnecessarily.”
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