Fianna Fáil TD for Galway East Colm Keaveney has described as alarming details of a leaked Department of Health report which signals the closure of the 24 hour Emergency Department at Portiuncula Hospital.  The document warns of drastic reductions in services across the health sector if the Government presses ahead with planned budget cuts for next year.

Deputy Keaveney commented, “The scale of cuts revealed in this leaked report are truly shocking.  The measures required to meet these budget targets are extreme and will have a devastating impact on the quality and safety of care for patients.  Under the plan, Portiuncula Hospital will lose its 24 hour A&E service, resulting in detrimental implications for patients.  The closure of the out of hours service would force patients to travel long distances in emergency situations to Galway University Hospital, which is already near breaking point and does not have the capacity to cope with the extra volumes.  Even with a fully functioning A&E service at Portiuncula, yesterday saw almost 30 people waiting on trolleys at GUH.  The fact is GUH will be put under huge pressure if it has to take on the overflow from Ballinasloe.

“The move will also put pressure on the ambulance service in the region, which has already been propelled into the spotlight because of poor response times and failing infrastructure.  Staff and patients are already extremely concerned about the health service in Galway, and the contents of this report will do little to ease their fears.

“This Government has consistently failed to provide adequate funding for the health budget, resulting in increased waiting lists, A&E overcrowding and cancelled operations.  It is almost a certainty that no additional resources will be allocated to GUH if the 24 hour A&E closure at Portiuncula is pushed through.  Not only will people in east Galway see their hospital services decimated further, it will impact negatively on patients at GUH as well.

“The report itself refers to the “draconian” measures needed to secure the proposed spending cuts and warns that the targets are not achievable and would “seriously compromise patient safety”.  The Government cannot be allowed to press ahead with these plans.  Since this coalition came into office, the standards in healthcare have dropped significantly, and Government TDs in the constituency have done nothing to protect services in the county.  They are as responsible for the demise of situation at the hospital as the Health Minister.

“Assurances from this Government ring hollow.  We need a concrete commitment from the Minister that there will be no further downgrading of services or bed closures at Portiuncula Hospital next year.  Any further cuts will exacerbate an already pressurised situation and management need to be afforded the time to bring the situation under control so that it can be improved into the future”.