Opposition politicians have criticised the terms of a new review of Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, saying the Government is “hell-bent” on closing services.
Members of the review group include senior clinicians and the work is due to be completed in September.
The terms of reference were circulated on Monday, prompting backlash from Sinn Féin, Aontú and campaigners, who say that a reconfiguration at the hospital is hard-wired into the review.
Government sources have confirmed to The Irish Times that the group is not reviewing the original decision to reconfigure the services, but rather it is a review of whether there is adequate support and capacity in place in other hospitals to allow the changes to happen.
The original plan was to convert the emergency department to a 24-hour medical assessment unit where patients would have to be referred by a GP, and critically ill patients would be transferred to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.
Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has highlighted a series of concerns over a Health Service Executive (HSE) plan to divert patients away from the hospital’s emergency department (ED), and subsequently instructed the HSE not to proceed with the reconfiguration of the ED, which was to happen at the end of June.
The rapid review will now take place and will “assess the reconfiguration plan for Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan”, and recommend any “additional capacity needed in advance of the transition of any activity from Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, emergency department”, according to the terms of reference.
The group will also look at whether any additional capacity will be needed for ambulance services to meet additional demands that arise from the planned changes.
Sinn Féin said on Tuesday the “imminent closure of Navan accident and emergency must be stopped”.
Sinn Féin TD in Meath East Darren O’Rourke said the terms of the review “are the final curtain call on the closure of Navan A&E”.
“We have seen nothing in this press release to commit to keeping our A&E open, no commitment to putting services in place, only identifying them, and it falls short of committing to putting these in place before their planned reconfiguration.
“The whole process by the HSE and the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has been wholly unsatisfactory in relation to how they approached the closure of Navan A&E.
“It will take a spectacular challenge by the HSE to deliver more bed capacity and more staff for our hospital and ambulance services while trying to address long waiting times.”
Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín, who is also the head of the Save Navan Hospital campaign, also criticised the Minister over the review.
“It appears that the terms of reference has the closure of Our Lady’s Hospital A&E, Navan, built into them. What proper investigation would have the outcome hard-wired into the terms of reference before any research has been undertaken? Minister Damien English promised that this option would be included. Yet, it’s not. We are calling on the Government to include the logical option of strengthening A&E services at Navan with the provision of acute surgery services in Navan into the terms of reference. This is what the 200,000 people in Meath want and need. This is what tens of thousands of people marched for. This is our red line.”
The review group will include clinical director of Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda, Dr Ian Counihan as well as clinical directors of Navan and Connolly hospitals, GP representative Dr Catherine Wann, chair of Nedoc out-of-hours service Dr Seamus McMenamin and director of the National Ambulance Service Robert Morton.