Hospital Chief refuses to say if Portlaoise Hospital will be downgraded

Written 3 years ago by Rebecca Donnelly


Under pressure from Will Faulkner about 24/7 emergency services, Susan O’Reilly reveals a medical assessment unit is “the next step”

Despite repeated questions from Will Faulkner on this morning’s Midlands Today Show, the CEO of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group persistently refused to outline her plan for the future of Portlaoise Hospital – but might have let slip an important detail.

Dr Susan O’Reilly was invited on the programme following a regulatory review which found some progress had been made since last year’s highly critical HIQA investigation but that significant risks remained. It finds the uncertainty surrounding its long term future is compounding existing recruitment challenges.

Dr O’Reilly told Will that a plan was “officially received by the Department of Health last week” and that she would not disclose its contents until it is endorsed.

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“This is a public service Dr O’Reilly, designed to protect public health, and it seems the public is the last to be told what’s happening”

Will Faulkner pressed Dr O’Reilly on whether local GPs and consultants are correct that services will be reduced and she appeared to confirm that a medical assessment unit, rather than full emergency department, will be the outcome:

WF: “There are 69 local health professionals who say they know what’s in your plan. They say you’re going to downgrade the hospital. You’re going to close acute services including paediatrics, accident and emergency and instensive care. Are they wrong?”

SOR: “What I’ve engaged in with the staff is how we move to the next step around the medical assessment unit.”

WF: “So they’re not wrong?”

SOR: “There’ve been multiple leaks and multiple iterations of what’s become a final draft action plan”

WF: “Well Dr O’Reilly, you can dispel a lot of gossip at this stage by telling us are they wrong?”

Medical Assessment Units are associated with smaller hospitals and typically operate during business hours only.

Susan O’Reilly insists she won’t disclose the plan before it is endorsed and could not indicate when it will be published, subject to feedback from the Department of Health about the draft document received last week.

A HIQA spokesperson told Midlands 103 this morning that it has seen the plan but will not comment while it is in draft form. However, Head of Healthcare Regulation Sean Egan says the watchdog’s findings should not be perceived as ammunition to close services. “Not necessarily, no. I think there are potentially many different options and scenarios that need to be taken into account here.”

You can hear the exchange below as Will continually challenges Dr O’Reilly on whether her recommendation is to reduce services, contrary to the advice of 69 local medical professionals including the Clinical Director at Portlaoise Hospital. Listen as he replays her assurance in January 2015 that she intended to have 24/7 emergency services continue in Portlaoise.