A&E fears as minister avoids Dáil question

AN organisation yesterday claimed that an A&E department in Co Cork is set to close as part of a centralisation of services to larger urban centres, a move first mooted in the controversial Hanly Report.

At a press conference hosted by Mallow General Hospital Action Committee, it was stated that Minister for Health, Mary Harney, had failed to answer a Dáil question on the future of the hospital’s A&E, instead claiming its running was a matter solely for the Health Service Executive.

Fears that the hospital’s 24-hour A&E was going to be downgraded were further compounded when local TD, Joe Sherlock, made further inquiries from the Department of Health.

He produced a list of A&E units nationally which were set for funding under the Programme for Government — Mallow didn’t appear on the list.

The action group’s chairman, Derry Blake, said he was very disturbed at the information emanating from Minister Harney and the Department of Health.

“Mallow is designed as being a hub town and its population is set to reach 30,000 in the next few years. The hospital also draws patients from all of north Cork, parts of south Limerick and west Waterford, a hinterland which has a population of around 100,000. In the last two years Mallow’s A&E department has dealt with nearly 26,000 patients,” Mr Blake said.

Deputy Sherlock said he held Minister Harney responsible and believes a “stealth approach” is being used to introduce the Hanly Report, especially as more funding is being ploughed into facilities at Cork University Hospital.

He added that if the A&E was closed people living in some remote parts of north-west Cork could face very lengthy trips to the city and local GPs believe this could put their lives at risk.

The HSE (Southern Region) issued a reply yesterday which primarily focussed on creating a day procedure unit at the hospital, for which no funding is yet available.

Strangely, it wasn’t until the last line of their statement that they mentioned the A&E department at Mallow. The statement said officials were working to ensure the current A&E services were maintained.

Tony Long, deputy general manager of the CUH groups, of which Mallow General is a part, said the development of a day procedure unit and rehabilitation beds and facilities at Mallow General Hospital are priorities identified by the hospital’s management team and these are included in the hospital’s development plan.

The HSE said a day procedures unit would mean a significant number of surgical procedures and medical investigations could be carried out at the hospital, on a day-case basis meaning no overnight stay.

Hospital network manager, Gerry O’Dwyer, said funding for the project was not approved this year and they would reapply for it in 2007.

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