The HSE's plan to close the emergency department and intensive care unit (ICU) at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan, Co Meath, while Covid-19 is still an issue is "beyond belief", a Meath West TD has said.
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín on Wednesday published a letter circulated by the HSE and Ireland East Hospital Group confirming the planned downgrade of the hospital.
The letter says the emergency department would become a GP-referred medical assessment unit, and that the hospital would “not require an intensive care unit” but would instead operate a post-anaesthetic care unit related to orthopaedic surgery.
Ireland East Hospital Group said in the letter that no date had been confirmed for the “reconfiguration”, but that the “transformation process has commenced”.
Mr Tóibín said Navan’s emergency department and ICU had been “on the frontline in the fight against Covid-19 for so long”, and were now being closed while the fight was ongoing.
“The Minister for Health stood up in the Dáil today and said that some hospitals may need to keep restrictions because Covid is still an issue and yet we have the HSE actively closing down ICU and emergency beds in Navan – it’s beyond belief.”
He said the planned reduction at Navan came at a time when nearby hospitals in Drogheda, Blanchardstown and Cavan were "under phenomenal pressure", and there were a million people nationwide on hospital waiting lists.
Dr Ruairi Hanley, a Co Meath GP and spokesman for the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, said the hospital's ICU had saved a lot of lives during the pandemic.
He expressed disbelief at the plan to reduce services at this time of year when it would put pressure on already strained services at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda.
“This is beyond insanity. It is would be insane to do it at any time but to do it with influenza season coming is deranged.”
Senior clinicians at the hospital have privately told him that they viewed the decision as “extremely dangerous, rash and a fundamental stupid decision”.
A spokeswoman for Ireland East Hospital Group said the proposed changes would only take place in the context of “overall service reorganisation in the hospital group, and will be undertaken in a planned and orderly manner”.
The latest HSE figures show that there were five confirmed Covid-19 cases in Navan Hospital, including one person in the ICU, on Tuesday. There were two ICU beds available at the hospital.