Minister asked to intervene over orthopaedic cuts

HEALTH Minister James Reilly is to be asked to intervene after the HSE announced plans to close 50% of the surgical facility at Croom Orthopaedic Hospital in Co Limerick for eight months.

The controversial move, which unions say will be “disastrous” for orthopaedic patients, is to be raised in the Dáil this week.

Fine Gael TD Patrick O’Donovan said yesterday the matter cannot go unchallenged. “I understand there are budgets constraints within the mid-western hospital group but, as was pointed out previously and as I will be pointing out to the minister and the HSE over the next few days, Croom has not and is not the problem here in terms of budgetary constraints.

“That point needs to be acknowledged by the HSE and the minister and that’s what I’m looking for.”

Staff at Croom were told last Friday that one operating theatre and a 15-bed ward at the hospital were to close for a period of eight months, starting on May 3.

Workers claim there was no consultation with trade unions about the move.

“This effectively closes 50% of the surgical facility for this speciality in the mid-west for a minimum of eight months. No consultation has taken place and this is a clear breach of the Croke Park agreement,” IMPACT assistant general secretary Andy Pike said.

Staff are also concerned this is the second time in less than a year that the HSE has attempted to downsize the hospital and claim the latest move will be disastrous for patients.

“For patients requiring orthopaedic treatment this is a disaster, as the regional hospital in Dooradoyle simply does not have the resources to cope with any additional surgical work if Croom is operating at half capacity. Beds are still closed at Dooradoyle and there is no scope for treating more orthopaedic patients there without significantly increasing waiting times,” Mr Pike added.

A spokesperson for the HSE said the Mid-West Hospital Group has a requirement to operate within budget and must manage resources with this in mind.

“In order to ensure the group remains within its approved expenditure levels, we are currently putting together a budget break-even plan,” the spokesperson said.

“This plan is based on a realistic assessment of achievable objectives for the group and is formulated with a view to maintaining all existing and essential emergency services and minimising the overall impact on patient care.”

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