Harney ‘hasn’t seen’ latest proposals on Hospital

Health Minister Mary Harney has admitted that she has not yet seen ‘the latest proposals’ relating to Roscommon County Hospital.    Speaking in the Seanad on Tuesday Senator Terry Leyden raised the issue of Roscommon Hospital with her. The following is an edited transcript of what transpired:  Senator Terry Leyden: I am delighted the Minister is present to discuss patient safety. As she will be aware, issues have arisen in County Roscommon again. A report on services at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, and Roscommon County Hospital was presented on 10 April at a briefing for members of Roscommon County Council and the Health Service Executive west regional health forum.    No courtesy was shown to myself, as an Oireachtas member, or my colleague, Deputy Michael Finneran, regarding a briefing on this issue. The HSE has issued this report in a cavalier fashion. As a former Minister of State at the Department of Health and former chairman of the Western Health Board, it would have been courteous at least to have been given a copy of the document. I obtained a copy of it which was presented to the management team of the HSE. I hope it will reach the Minister’s desk eventually for a decision on the future of acute services at Roscommon County Hospital and services at Portiuncula Hospital.   This issue has gone on for too long. I felt it had been resolved by the Minister in September 2006 when she was well aware of the issues and the proposals that had been put forward. The matter was discussed last night at a meeting of the Fianna Fáil party attended by senior members of the Dáil ceantar, councillors and Oireachtas members. Having gone through the document carefully, we felt it was not in the best interests of the continuation of acute services at Roscommon County Hospital.    The proposal is that all acute services should cease at the hospital and anaesthetists and surgeons should transfer to Portiuncula Hospital. I was chairman of the health board when we signed a contract for a new state-of-the-art accident and emergency department at Roscommon County Hospital, which was opened by the Taoiseach. Assurances were given by him and other senior political figures at the time that the hospital would be retained as an acute general hospital. The situation is critical. Portiuncula Hospital is between 30 and 50 miles away from most people in Roscommon.    At the end of the day, arising from the transfer of all acute surgeons and anaesthetists to Portiuncula Hospital, Roscommon County Hospital will not retain its accident and emergency department 24-7. It would put patients and people in the region at risk. The hospital was used recently following road accidents and young people were saved. According to best practice, a patient should be in a hospital within an hour of an accident occurring, which is referred as the golden hour. Relying on ambulances on inadequate roads is not helpful.   The Minister attended meetings on 12 September 2006 at which she gave commitments on the continuation of acute services at Roscommon County Hospital. In May 2007 the Taoiseach stated services at the hospital would not be downgraded.    The downgrading of Roscommon County Hospital will have to be a Cabinet decision because I have no confidence in the HSE to make it. The decision may be based on the Hanly Report but senior politicians stated decisions would be based on location and getting safely to hospital. I appeal to the Minister to examine the issue. She was elected Minister but I did not elect Professor Drumm. Deputy Mary Harney: The plan for Roscommon County Hospital was to merge its surgical department with that of Portiuncula Hospital. I have not seen the latest proposals. When the HSE is briefing, it is required, like all Departments, to brief Government and Opposition alike. It seems that the county council and, perhaps, the regional forum were briefed in this instance. Neither the HSE nor the various Departments can be selective when offering briefings. They have to make such services available to Government and Opposition alike. I am more than happy to ask the HSE to brief those who are interested on the Roscommon issue.