Hiqa backs closure of unit at Roscommon


THE STATE’S health standards watchdog has said it supports the new model of service being introduced at Roscommon hospital.

The Health Information and Quality Authority also warned that delays in bringing about similar changes to other smaller hospitals could put patients’ lives at risk.

In a statement explaining the background to its role in the closure of Roscommon hospital’s emergency care unit, the authority said it had not recommended the closure of any individual hospital.

However, it said it was vital that its recommendations to improve quality and safety of services for patients at smaller hospitals be implemented by the Health Service Executive.

“The authority recognises and understands the difficulties in bringing about these changes,” Hiqa said in a statement. “However, further procrastination and delay is not acceptable and can put patients’ lives and safety at risk.”

The authority said its two statutory investigation reports into Ennis and Mallow hospitals identified serious concerns for patient safety at these facilities and similar-sized hospitals such as Roscommon. On foot of this, it recommended that the HSE review acute clinical services in hospitals with a similar profile to Ennis.

In total, there are 10 smaller hospitals where the HSE has identified concerns over the standard of acute clinical services, or 24-hour emergency care.

The names of these hospitals came into the public domain in April 2011 as part of Hiqa’s report into Mallow hospital, although they did not receive significant media attention at the time. They are: Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan; Louth County Hospital; Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise; St Columcille’s Hospital, Loughlinstown; Ennis; Nenagh; St John’s Hospital, Limerick; Roscommon County Hospital; Mallow General Hospital; and Bantry General Hospital.

Hiqa has confirmed it received a report for the first time from the HSE setting out issues regarding safety of services at these smaller hospitals in September 2010.

In February 2011 the HSE provided an updated report to Hiqa describing further actions it had taken. However, Hiqa found that “risk mitigation” plans for each site had yet to be completed or implemented by the HSE.

This, it said, was not satisfactory and there was “potential for patients who continue to receive acute services in such hospitals to continue to be at risk”.

Hiqa’s statement says that towards the end of last month, the HSE confirmed to the authority it had serious concerns regarding services at Roscommon.

These concerns reflected risks to patients in small hospitals that were previously identified in Ennis and Mallow. The risks were compounded by the shortage of junior doctors.

The HSE also informed the authority that it had made the decision to change the services in Roscommon in order to address the patient safety issues.

“These changes are consistent with the recommendations of the Ennis and Mallow reports and the authority supports the new model of services that is being implemented by the HSE in Roscommon,” Hiqa said.