It is resulting in the cancellation of planned surgery, and is causing overcrowding in the accident and emergency department, according to the report.
Dr Christine O’Malley, former president of the Irish Medical Organisation and consultant geriatrician at Nenagh General Hospital, said the document — the new “blueprint” outlining the plan for the transfer of emergency and surgical services from hospitals in Nenagh and Ennis to Limerick — further confirmed campaigners’ doubts regarding the transfer.
A&E services are set to move on April 1, followed by emergency surgical services in July.
Dr O’Malley said it was baffling that the Health Service Executive had distributed the report, highlighting overcrowding in Limerick, at a time when it was centralising services there. As well as this, she said staff at both Nenagh and Ennis were told that they should consider locking hospital doors and gates after hours to prevent “walk-ins” to the A&E departments.
“The hospitals will effectively be out of bounds to the public,” she said.
Dr O’Malley, who has said she may be forced to resign over the issue, also expressed serious concern about how surgical patients will be referred to Limerick.
“Transferring a patient leads to endless bother and is always difficult so I really don’t know how it is going to work.
“There is no room in Limerick for patients and people will end up stuck in A&E waiting for a bed on a ward,” she said.
“The HSE is devising a plan without looking at the situation on the ground. Consultants refer patients who need a bed in Limerick on a daily basis and are regularly told there is no bed for them due to overcrowding and the fact that there can be up to 30 people on trolleys.”
Labour’s spokesperson for health Jan O’Sullivan said any attempts to downgrade Ennis and Nenagh hospitals are going to make the overcrowding situation far worse. “The minister bluntly stated in the Dáil this week that the move will go ahead as planned,” she said.
Meanwhile, Sinn Féin spokesperson for health Caoimhghin O’Caolain said efforts were ongoing in Monaghan to resist the plan to “effectively close Monaghan General Hospital” by transferring acute medical services to Cavan over the next number of weeks.
“No matter how often we try to impress that on the minister, she remains dogged in her determination to move ahead with her foolhardy plans.”