Navan hospital: Seriously ill patients to be diverted from next month

Ambulances with these patients will be told to bypass Our Lady’s Hospital in favour of other hospitals under HSE plan

Critically ill patients are to be diverted from attending Navan hospital from next month in a further reconfiguration of services there.

Ambulances carrying “high acuity” patients and those with acute abdominal pain will be told to bypass the Our Lady’s Hospital emergency department in favour of other hospitals in the area, local GPs have been told. All other ambulances will continue to bring patients to the Co Meath hospital.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly confirmed the planned changes last Friday, the letter from the HSE local integrated care committee to GPs also states.

In a further phase of transformation, the hospital would have the capacity to triage patients attending its medical assessment unit in addition to receiving GP referrals. However, this change, planned for the new year, has yet to be approved politically.

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“Separate to transformation, the medical assessment unit will reopen on Thursday 1st December. Referral will be by letter and phone-call, as in pre Covid days,” the letter states.

Under phase two, there will be three main ways for accessing the medical assessment unit: GP referral; triage by the ambulance service; and triage sought by patients.

The letter says that a meeting of the local integrated care committee next Tuesday will have an “altered agenda” and will now centre around updating attendees about the current status of transformation of the hospital.

The HSE is to run a public communication campaign to “reassure the public that the hospital is not closing and that over 80pc of all patients and over 90pc of medical patients who currently attend Navan will still be able to have their medical needs met”.

The letter is signed by Drs Niall Maguire, Catherine Wann and Deborah Ryan.

The HSE has long sought to divert serious cases away from Navan’s emergency department due to long-standing safety concerns. However, this move has been strenuously opposed by a local campaign group.

A taskforce established by Mr Donnelly has said the reconfiguration of the hospital should go ahead, according to HSE board minutes.

“This recommendation is based on the view that this will provide patients with the highest quality, safest service,” the minutes from September 30th state, citing a “near final draft” of the report by the taskforce.

“Mitigations have been put in place to manage the risk of higher volumes of displaced activity. In addition, the most critically unwell patients will be expedited for treatment within the ED at Our Lady of Lourdes (Drogheda) and will be provided with high-quality clinical care.”

“On balance, the review has indicated that proceeding with reconfiguration and implementing the plans developed will provide patients in the catchment area with the best care.”

A spokesman for the Minister said he had made it clear to the HSE that the situation with Navan hospital remains unchanged, and that reconfiguration cannot go ahead unless resources are available to other hospitals in the region. The only exception was a change allowing for the diversion of ambulances carrying critically ill and deteriorating patients from Navan to other hospitals.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times