Saturday, 18th November 2017
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‘Minister Harris has ‘no plans’ to realign South Tipp Hospital’ – Halligan

A strong difference of opinion has arisen between two Waterford T.D.s, Government Junior Minister, John Halligan and Sinn Féin T.D. David Cullinane about the future of South Tipperary General Hospital.

Minister for Health Simon Harris T.D. has told Waterford Minister of State John Halligan T.D. that he has no plans to move South Tipperary General Hospital out of the South/South West Hospital Group.

Minister Halligan had discussed the issue with Minister Harris amidst local concerns that South Tipp hospital’s realignment with the University of Limerick Hospital Group was under consideration:

“Such a move would have serious implications for referrals and the budget at University Hospital Waterford and would undoubtedly have an impact on the ongoing campaign to improve cardiology services within the south east region.

“I have spoken to Minister Harris on the issue over the weekend and Minister Harris informed me that the Slainte Care report on the future of the health service made a number of recommendations in

relation to Hospital Groups, including consideration of the current alignment of hospital groups and community health organisations.

“However any changes to the composition of Hospital Groups will be subject to the approval of the Minister and the Minister made it clear to me that he has no plans to move South Tipperary General Hospital out of the South/South West Hospital Group."

Reassurances from Minister for Health not worth the paper they are written on - Cullinane

Responding to clarification offered by the Minister for Health Simon Harris on South Tipperary

General Hospital's future in the South/Southwest hospital group Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane said the assurances are not worth the paper they are written on.

Deputy Cullinane pointed out that while the Minister says he has no plan to facilitate such a move no proposal is yet on his desk as it is still being discussed with the groups and the

Department. Speaking today Deputy Cullinane said: "Time and again proposals are made regarding the future of acute hospital services in the South East. Time and again assurances are given by a Minister for Health which in the end turn out not to be worth the paper they are written on.

"In 2012 as part of the establishment of hospital groups promises were made to the people of Waterford that the current clinical footprint for patient referral would not change. This has turned out not to be the case and slowly but surely more patients in Carlow, Kilkenny and Wexford are being referred to Dublin and not Waterford.

"Equally promises were made in relation to emergency cardiology services which turned out not to be true. A clear commitment that University Hospital Waterford would remain as the regional provider of emergency cardiac services for all patients in the Southeast was swept aside in the Herity Report.

"It is a fact that discussions are taking place within the University of Limerick Hospital Group and the South/Southwest group regains the future of South Tipperary General. Political pressure is being exerted from Limerick for South Tipperary General Hospital to be moved into the Limerick group. These groups are competing against each other for patient numbers and funding.

"While the Minister for Health states that he has no current plans to support such a move, it does not provide the comfort needed. No such proposal is currently on his desk as it is still being considered at group and HSE level. What will his intention be if a proposal is put on his desk? Clever political wording has cost us in the past.

"I reiterate my concern that a loss of patent referral from South Tipperary to UHW would spell disaster long term for the hospital. We need to keep the pressure on and as far it goes I at least welcome the fact that the Minister responsed. I will keep a close eye on this issue over the coming months and we must do all we can to fully protect services at UHW."

“Cardiac Care in the South East is in crisis" says Independent Councillor Breda Gardner Kilkenny’s only elected independent County Councillor Breda Gardner is deeply concerned about the latest developments surrounding Cardiac Care in the South East. “Firstly, I see the new Mobile Cath Lab in Waterford as nothing more than a temporary sticking plaster and a big smoke screen. Secondly, the withdrawal of the coastguard helicopter to ferry patients to Cork - itself a hopelessly flawed policy in the first place - means very ill patients now face a potentially deadly lottery travelling by road. And finally, I am reliably informed that negotiations are underway for South Tipperary General Hospital to leave the South/South West Hospital Group and align itself with Limerick. I believe this is yet another blatant attempt by the Department of Health to reduce the numbers in our catchment area and use this as an excuse to deny us 24/7 cardiac care and other acute services. In my opinion, this shows that health care policy in the South East is being driven by muddled political ignorance and bias, by petty power struggles between different hospital groups, and by ill-advised and medically dangerous administrative considerations."

“I am a former nurse," continued Cllr Gardner, “so I fully understand medically what is at stake for patients in the South East. With cardiac care, literally every second counts. For that reason, I want St Lukes’ Clinical Director Prof Garry Courtney to publicly explain why, during office hours, he routinely sends cardiac patients on a minimum 90 minute journey to Dublin, when there is a perfectly good facility 30 minutes away in Waterford. Surely, as a medical professional, he knows that that 60 minute variation could mean the difference between a patient surviving and a patient dying."

Cllr Gardner is also troubled by another seemingly arbitrary and confusing decision by the HSE. “I sit on the South East Health Forum, and am trying to get the HSE to confirm that Kilcreane Hospital remains part of the South/South West Hospital Group whilst St Lukes now belongs to the East. Such a set-up is utter madness! Patients are best served by authorities making decisions based on medical needs and geography, not on some artificial administrative delineations. In my opinion, what is currently happening is an absolute scandal – people have died unnecessarily, and more people will die unless something is done."

Cllr Gardner also has scathing words for local representatives in Kilkenny and Carlow. “Our local TD’s are failing us, and failing us badly," she adds. “They should be shouting from the rooftops about the lack of appropriate cardiac care in the South East, but their collective silence and inaction is shameful. Why are John Paul Phelan and Pat Deering so quiet and ineffective on this matter? Where are John McGuinness and Bobby Aylward? Fianna Fail campaigned on 24 hour cardiac care in the last election: they could easily force the government’s hand on this issue, but they choose not to. And whilst Sinn Fein have done some good work on this matter, much more is needed from them. We need decisive action, and we need it now!"

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