Future of Portlaoise hospital ‘uncertain’, says Hiqa

The Government is facing a politically contentious decision in the Midlands after an official report raised concerns over safety standards at Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.

The hospital is at a “critical juncture” and faces an “uncertain” future because of continuing safety concerns, according to the report by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa).

An action plan submitted by Dublin Midlands Hospital Group to the Department of Health proposes major changes to the hospital, with one source saying only 80 per cent of current services will survive if it is implemented.

The Portlaoise Hospital Action Group, which believes the plan proposes an end to the current 24/7 emergency service at the hospital, has vowed to campaign against any cutbacks.

One option for the Government is to rationalise services, as favoured by clinical decision-makers on safety grounds and in recognition of the extreme difficulties in recruiting qualified staff. However, Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, the local TD, has called on the Health Service Executive to invest further in the hospital, even though it has benefited from significant extra funding in recent years.

Safety questioned

Hiqa issued its warning after again publishing a report calling into question the safety of emergency and critical care services at the hospital. The authority said the intensive care unit at the hospital does not meet minimum standards and has questioned whether the critical care services can continue.

“The status quo is not an acceptable long-term situation from a patient safety point of view, and the ongoing uncertainty that results from the lack of a long-term plan is damaging for the hospital and impacts on current service sustainability.”

In a report reviewing progress on recommendations it made last year in the wake of a series of baby deaths at Portlaoise, Hiqa says there have been some improvements in maternity services.

© The Irish Times

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