Donnelly says Navan hospital decision cannot ‘repeat mistakes of the past’

Minister denies recent resignation of HSE chief Paul Reid is related to Navan hospital controversy

A reconfiguration of Navan hospital’s emergency department (ED) cannot “repeat the mistakes of the past” and result in increased pressure on nearby health services, Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) proposed to replace the ED at Navan hospital with a 24-hour medical assessment and injury unit that could only be accessed with a GP referral. There has been strong political and community opposition to the proposal, with doctors at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda – which would receive seriously ill patients diverted from Navan under the plan – also raising concerns.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last month told the HSE to stall the plans to allow for further engagement with politicians, the community and doctors, and for the executive to carry out a “regional review”.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Mr Donnelly said similar reconfigurations taken in the southwest of the country is part of the reason why University Hospital Limerick (UHL) is facing significant overcrowding challenges.

“What I want to make sure is that we don’t have a situation like we do in Limerick, like we do in Galway, where emergency departments in some of the smaller hospitals were turned into injury units and many of those hospitals really thrived and were huge successes,” he said.

“I believe and a lot of people believe that some of the problems we’re having in Limerick today are because when Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s were reconfigured as injury units, the requisite resources were not put into Limerick to deal with that additional demand. I think the same may have happened in Galway.”

He added: “I want to make sure that we have an approach that listens very carefully to the clinical concerns raised in Navan, but equally the clinical concerns raised in Drogheda as well, and that we don’t repeat what I believe were the mistakes of the past and contribute to the huge pressures on patients and healthcare workers on the west coast at the moment.”

Mr Donnelly denied that the recent decision by Paul Reid, chief executive of the HSE, to resign from his role was related to the clash of opinion over Navan hospital.

“He and I have a very good working relationship. We talk to each other regularly; we’ve regular formal meetings on a wide variety of things. We would be on the phone to each other quite regularly as well. We’ve worked quite closely with each other, and we need to take Paul at his word,” Mr Donnelly said.

“He has given various reasons, one is around his family. I know it’s often cited but in this case I think it’s very real. A lot of people in healthcare over the last two and a half years in particular have just been through immense, relentless, daily pressure.”

On the reconfiguration of Navan hospital, the HSE said it is putting in place the extra resources required. More than 80 additional beds have been added to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, along with three operating theatres and an expanded ED, a spokeswoman added.

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers

Shauna Bowers is a reporter for The Irish Times