Last night, HSE officials confirmed that the unit at the South Infirmary Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH) — which treats about 300 patients a week — will close on a phased basis over the coming months.
Cork’s second-busiest emergency department will provide a 12-hour daytime service from mid-December before shutting down completely in April.
It sparked fears last night that Cork University Hospital’s (CUH) emergency unit — one of the busiest in the country and often one of the most overcrowded — will be swamped with extra patients.
“The main trauma centre at the CUH is under severe strain and this will make the problem far worse,” local Independent Cllr Mick Finn said.
“There were 375 people on hospital trolleys in A&E departments nationwide yesterday and here we have the new Government — elected on promises to retain hospital services and improve health care in the public hospital sector — closing down one of Cork’s most strategically important emergency units, which invariably caters for the huge overflow from CUH.”
The unit is closing as part of the transfer of services from St Mary’s Hospital on the city’s northside to SIVUH — one of many changes outlined in the HSE South’s reconfiguration plan launched last November.
After months of talks, the exact timing of transfers emerged yesterday as HSE chiefs briefed staff and unions.
The Irish Examiner has learned that orthopaedic services will transfer from St Mary’s Orthopaedic Hospital to SIVUH in December.
The number of orthopaedic operating theatres at SIVUH will increase from two to three, with an increase of inpatient beds from 27 to 35, 10 new day beds, and six new paediatric beds.
A regional pain management centre will also be developed at the hospital.
“The transfer copper-fastens the future of the SIVUH as an elective hospital, which means that patients scheduled for operations and other procedures will not be cancelled due to emergency patients arriving at the hospital,” said the hospital’s chief executive Ger O’Callaghan.
Ger Reaney, Cork area HSE manager, confirmed that SIVUH’s cardiology services will move to the new cardiac renal unit at CUH in November, while SIVUH’s medical rehab unit for elderly care will move to St Finbarr’s Hospital.
Mr Reaney dismissed fears that CUH will be swamped and said an Urgent Care Centre, which will open at St Mary’s Hospital in January, will be able cater for routine presentations.