The Taoiseach has said outcomes for patients remain the primary concern as the future of Navan hospital’s emergency department (ED) is considered.
Micheál Martin said there is pressure on emergency departments after the pandemic but that experience has been gained from reconfigurations elsewhere.
Acknowledging concerns among doctors at Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda on the impact that closing the ED in Navan could have there, however, he said the outcome for patients “should be the main concern”.
Mr Martin said he was satisfied there was “no connection” between Paul Reid’s departure from the Health Service Executive, announced on Monday morning, and the row over the reconfiguration of the ED at Navan Hospital.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last week said he had told the HSE to stall the plans to allow for further engagement with politicians, the community and doctors.
Mr Reid said on Sunday that the plans would proceed, telling RTÉ it would be a mistake for the Minister to use his powers to halt it.
The Taoiseach said the Government had not taken a decision to reconfigure Navan ED and said the Minister could give directions to the HSE.
But, he added, “I do not think that’s the context for Paul Reid’s decision today.”
Mr Martin said Mr Reid was “very clear” to him that he was leaving his role as chief executive to give him more time with his family. He denied that there were broader tensions between Mr Reid and the Minister or Government officials.
Dr Fergal Hickey of the Irish Emergency Medicine Association has said that the majority of people in the Navan area would not experience any change under reconfiguration plans for Our Lady’s Hospital. There is strong political opposition to the proposal to replace the ED at the hospital with a 24-hour medical assessment and injury unit. Politicians opposing the move include local TD Peadar Tóibín, who told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland that the hospital’s clinical director, surgeon Gerry McEntee, was wrong when he said the changes would benefit the region and patients. All that was needed, he said, was an additional €10 million a year.
Speaking on RTÉ radio, Dr Hickey said the throughput at Navan was very low and that the hospital had already been bypassed for major trauma, stroke and heart attack care.
“There’s an awful lot of exaggeration of the extent to which people will have to move. For the majority of people in Navan their experience will not change.
“There is a serious patient risk issue here. We know that the last thing any politician wants to be associated with is what is perceived as a downgrade of its local hospital.”
Dr Hickey said people should look at what happened in Roscommon as an example of a positive outcome.
“It is now doing more than it did 15 years ago. More staff are employed, providing more services – that is the future for Navan. It is not going to be a 24/7 emergency department – people are still using the term accident and emergency dept which went out 22 years ago, they fail to understand that an emergency department is not just a sign outside the door.
“It requires a hospital with the capacity to support the emergency department and it requires certain throughput – Navan is not in that position and no amount of investment is going to change that.”