Concern over fate of Waterford hospital


Concern is mounting in Waterford over the fate of the local hospital with the imminent publication of a report on regional hospital groupings.

Later this month the Cabinet will consider a report by Prof John Higgins which is understood to recommend that Waterford Regional Hospital be grouped with hospitals in Cork, while other hospitals in the southeast are paired with hospitals in Dublin.

Despite this recommendation the Government is not expected to go ahead with the break-up of the southeast network of hospitals, which local campaigners claim would result in the downgrading of Waterford.

They fear all four hospitals in the southeast will be graded at the same level to satisfy regional politics. Since Waterford is the biggest hospital in the area, this would effectively amount to a demotion.

The local protest campaign, which put more than 12,000 demonstrators on the streets last November, has been suspended pending publication of the Higgins report, which has been delayed for several months.

Local fears were heightened this month by the decision of the Health Service Executive to give big budget increases to hospitals in Wexford and Kilkenny when Waterford’s budget was increased by only 0.3 per cent.

Campaigners have contrasted the fast-tracking of facilities in Wexford and Kilkenny by the Government in 2011 with the failure to go ahead with plans for a regional cancer centre and palliative care centre at Waterford Regional Hospital.

These contrasting outcomes are seen locally as the price Waterford is paying for not having a Minister at the Cabinet table.

Waterford Regional Hospital has been under severe financial pressure over the past year and claims to have made 125 per cent of its cost-containment programme last year, with savings of more than €10 million.