A hard-hitting study offering an alternative to the Government’s Hanly report is to be launched by a health services action group today.
The study contains a critical analysis on why the planned downgrading of hospitals will not work in the Mid Western region.
“The Hanly report predicated on the myth that bigger hospitals offer a better outcome for patients,” said Labour Senator Kathleen O’Meara.
“Smaller hospitals can treat patients just as well as, and better than, bigger ones and, secondly, it is less expensive on the taxpayer as a whole.”
The independent study based on the Clare hospital was carried out by doctor and economist Jim Bradley, for the Ennis General Hospital Development Committee.
It is one of the committees behind the Health Services Action Group which is opposed to the centralisation of acute hospital care.
The 15 hospital action groups are also against the downgrading of 26 general hospitals proposed in the Government-commissioned Hanly report.
The executive summary of The Clare Report said it was commissioned to examine the implications, for the people in the county, of the recommendations made by the National Task Force on Medical Staffing.
Ms O’Meara, who is one of the campaign organisers, said: “Basically the idea that we need 12 large regional hospitals is a myth and it is dangerous.
“There is a body of international evidence that shows patients work better in hospitals of less than 300 beds.”
The National Task Force on Medical Staffing, chaired by David Hanly issued its first report on two pilot areas of the country last year.
It recommended changes in hospitals in the Mid-West region, including services in Limerick, Ennis and Nenagh, and also in Dublin.
The logic behind the Hanly report is that the hospital service is dependent on junior doctors working long hours.
But under the European Working Time Directive junior doctors must reduce their working hours from around 65 hours a week to 58 hours from August 1, then 48 hours from August 2009.
The new study found consultants in the Ennis hospital and GPs in the area were opposed to downgrading on the grounds of safety of patients.
It also claimed that by referring all regional accident and emergency cases to the Limerick-based Mid Western Regional Hospital the overall workload would increase by 57%.
A general practitioner in Clare, Dr Tom Nolan, said: “We are coming up with a safer model, more economical and more sustainable.
“The answer to the challenge is still working within certain elements.
“It would allow good things from the Hanly report and allow acute hospital services to be maintained.
“Since the initial launch of the Hanly report, much information has become available as regards updating on the rational underlying Hanly to such an extent it makes it almost out of date.
“The Irish College of General Practitioners had no input and they said they can’t depend on GPs to take up the slack,” he added.
The report said the Ennis hospital current serves over 90,000 people dispersed over the Clare region.
It claimed that people forced to travel to the MWRH would face poor accessibility and long journey times.