Chief executive of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group, Dr Susan O’Reilly, confirmed that complex surgeries would be moved away from the hospital “quite soon”.
It is understood they will be transferred from Portlaoise to either St James’s Hospital in Dublin or the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore, Co Offaly.
The move follows the publication last month of the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (Hiqa) report into the safety, quality and standards of services provided by Portlaoise hospital.
The report points out that in 2012 and 2013 the HSE specifically identified clinical risks associated with surgery and emergency medicine at the hospital and went as far as to say surgical services should cease.“Risks in relation to general clinical services were previously identified in Portlaoise Hospital through multiple HSE reports. Despite this, remedial actions were not comprehensively implemented by the HSE to safeguard the patient’s clinical care journey,” the report states.
Health Minister, Leo Varadkar said any change to the hospital’s services would be undertaken to maximise patient safety and improve patient outcomes, not for financial reasons.
Dr Susan O’Reilly met staff at Portlaoise on Tuesday to discuss the reallocation of surgical services and how the process will impact on the emergency department. With the reallocation of complex surgeries the role of the hospital’s emergency department would change, she said on RTÉ radio .
The hospital would offer a range of simple fracture repairs and treatments for other injuries, such as lacerations, but cases requiring admission for more complicated surgical care would be treated in another hospital.
Dr O’Reilly said maternity services at the hospital would continue as usual, with GPs welcome to refer patients to the hospital in the normal manner.
“We can assure them that they will be cared for very well. There has been a substantial investment in maternity services,” she said.
The Irish Association for Emergency Medicine (IAEM) said Portlaoise should be reconfigured as either a local injury unit or local emergency unit as defined in the 2012 National Emergency Programme Report.
IAEM spokesperson, Dr Fergal Hickey, said it was crucial that the criteria laid down in the report was strictly followed: “Our view would be very strongly that you either have a local injury unit or a local emergency unit. You can’t produce a hybrid of the two because that would be unsafe from a patient care perspective.”
Fianna Fáil TD Sean Fleming said the decision to close the Portlaoise’s emergency department at night was short-sighted and should be withdrawn.
“What the hospital needs is adequate consultant cover, but instead services are being downgraded,” he said.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Charlie Flanagan, said his absolute priority was patient safety for people with medical needs in Laois and identifying how best this could be achieved, and was glad that a period of consultation was under way.