A senior staff member at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co Meath has said that HSE plans to close the facility’s emergency department were halted by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly.
Hundreds of campaigners opposing HSE plans to close the department and replace it with a GP-led medical assessment unit attended a public meeting in the town on Thursday night and vowed to fight “with every fibre” to protect services.
The hospital’s clinical director Gerry McEntee told RTÉ's Prime Time on Thursday that the closure of the department had not started because Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly had “overruled it”.
Mr McEntee said that while the HSE’s board had arranged for the closure to start from Thursday, there had been no change at the hospital due to Mr Donnelly’s move. He said it was not clear when the HSE plan would commence.
A spokesman for the Minister told RTÉ that Mr Donnelly had not exercised powers under Section 10 of the Health Act to direct the HSE not to close the unit.
Seventeen consultants had previously signed a letter expressing opposition to the closure and the meeting at the Newgrange Hotel in Navan heard that a second letter signed by a further six consultants, citing concerns around the closure of the department, had been sent to Mr Donnelly.
Meath West Fine Gael TD and Minister for State Damien English said the letter signed by the 17 consultants at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda expressed significant concerns regarding patient safety around the unit closing without having adequate resources in place at the Co Louth hospital.
“This letter is what we needed because it gives us evidence to what we’ve been saying all along, that the extra capacity in Drogheda is not there. There is actually two letters with six more consultants — so 23 consultants in total,” Mr English said.
“I do believe that this (letter) is a game changer because it’s proved what we’ve been saying all along...There is a very clear divide between the HSE and the Minister for Health but the Minister is in charge of the money so we’ll see where that goes.”
Mr Toibín, chair of the Save Navan Hospital Group, said he was now “living in a twilight zone” in politics. He said management at Navan hospital were putting in steps to close the department when the Minister for Health had said no to the proposed downgrading of the facility.
“The Minister isn’t a passenger on the bus — it’s his job to drive the direction of the bus,” he said. “The HSE say they want centres of excellence. We don’t have centres of excellence. We have centres of trolleys across the country.”
“We are not going to give up and we are going to fight 100 per cent with every fibre for the services. We mean business.
“Our A&E will be here when HSE management are retired with golden handshakes and gone. We need the ears of the HSE to be ringing with footsteps on July 9th.”
Speaking on Newstalk on Friday, the HSE’s chief clinical officer Dr Colm Henry said clinicians at the hospital in Navan had for many years been concerned about the safety of the emergency department and the intensive care unit, which is the smallest in the country.
“The emergency department simply doesn’t have the backup services that one would reasonably expect in 2022,″ he said.
He said the proposed model for reconfiguration would see the majority of patients continuing to receive care at the facility, with only a small number going elsewhere for specialist care.
“I want to reassure people listening that the hospital will be expanded - day care services, ambulatory services, elective surgeries, endoscopy, it will continue to see acutely ill patients, but not those who are unstable or critically ill who need to go somewhere else.”