Access to Bantry General Hospital’s (BGH) acute services unit is to remain restricted until at least September and the South/South West Hospital Group, which runs the hospital, has said the public needs to “consider other care options” in the interim.
These options should include patients' local GPs and the out-of-hours service, South Doc, the group said in a statement.
The hospital's Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) has been closed or had restricted access since last Monday as it does not have enough consultants to function properly.
Assurances had been given that issues at the hospital would be resolved by last Thursday, but restrictions remained in place over the Bank Holiday weekend.
And a statement issued on behalf of the hospital this morning indicated there will be restricted access to BGH's AMAU until September.
“Management at BGH confirm that due to staffing challenges the AMAU at the hospital was bypassed on a number of occasions in the last week with medical presentations being taken directly to Cork University Hospital," the statement said.
“As they arise, staff vacancies at BGH have been advertised. While the hospital has found it challenging to attract suitably qualified personnel, a number of job offers have been made with additional consultants resources secured and due to commence in September 2021.
“In the interim, Cork University Hospital and the South/South West Hospital Group will continue to support BGH in the management of patient services.
The statement went on to say: “In keeping with normal HSE protocols when hospital services are challenged, GPs in BGH catchment area have been advised of the current situation.
“Members of the public are advised to consider other care options before attending the Medical Assessment Unit at BGH.
“Management is asking people to think about all their care and treatment options.
“Patients are advised to contact their Local Injury Unit (LIU), GP or Southdoc out of hours service in the first instance.”
Local TD Michael Collins said: "I am shocked because this does not address the current crisis."
"And astonishingly, there has been little or no consultation or discussion about this with local GPs.
"This is an astonishing way to run a hospital.
"The Health Minister Stephen Donnelly now has to intervene and sort this out. It is totally unacceptable."
Local GP Dr Paul O’Sullivan, based at Bantry’s Marino Medical Centre, said: “GPs have not had any communication with hospital re cessation of MAU and we were left to find out for ourselves.
“We feel the HSE attitude is very unhelpful as it is leaving local GPs in the lurch, as we can only send acute patients to CUH Emergency Department now, as is happening at the moment.
“They say that consultants will be in place by September but last week we were told that new consultants would be in place by early August.
“It is a complete abdication of responsibility and is putting the onus on the local GP service to manage as best they can at huge clinical risk.
“They are putting patients in west Cork at high risk until they get their house in order and it simply isn’t good enough."
He added: “This would not be allowed to happen in the big urban areas - to have a hospital close down its acute medical service and leave the population to their own devices.
“The health minister should become involved to resolve the situation at this stage.”