Bantry General Hospital is due to lift restrictions on admissions to its urgent care centre service which have been in place due to staffing issues.
According to independent TD for Cork South-West Michael Collins, a number of consulting GPs have recently retired from the hospital, leaving a limited number of consultants and consulting GPs at the hospital.
Services had to be restricted due to the unavailability of a consultant. However, a locum consultant is due to be in place from today.
In addition, two new consultants are due to start in August, and another by the end of October.
A spokesperson for the South/South West Hospital Group said: "There is a dedicated medical consultant on call for the urgent care centre, who is supported by the multidisciplinary team made up of registrars, SHOs, nursing staff and other healthcare professionals.
"Current staffing issues are being managed in an active recruitment process and through sourcing locum resources and there will also be additional resources available on site in September 2021.
"In the meantime, as Bantry General Hospital is part of the CUH Group, CUH is directly supporting emergency services. The local injury unit in BGH continues to operate as normal.”
Mr Collins said: “The public needs to know why the staffing situation has been allowed to deteriorate to the extent that it has, and they need assurances that this won’t happen again.”
He said after making enquiries into what happened, he has discovered the reason for the restrictions was a “consultant staffing crisis”.
He said this had been “brewing for some time and has gone unheeded”.
“The lack of urgency shown in filling consultant staff positions by the Minister for Health all the way down to the HSE is nothing short of astonishing," he said.
He said he contacted Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s office on Tuesday, demanding an explanation for what is going on and assurances it wouldn’t happen again.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork South-West Christopher O’Sullivan said: “Admissions to Bantry General Hospital have been restricted due to the unavoidable unavailability of one of the consultants.
“The hospital has gone from three consulting GPs down to two for a very short period. This is obviously a huge concern to everybody in West Cork.
“I’ve spoken to hospital management and they have assured me a locum consultant will be on site tomorrow so that normal services can resume.”
He added: “This situation should not arise again in the future as two new consultants will start work in Bantry General Hospital in August, and another will be in place before October."
Mr Collins said: “We have been here before and it is very worrying that here we are again in a situation where the hospital simply can’t cope with the demand."
The Department of Health was asked for a comment.