Dr Ruairi Hanley...concerns about hospitals.
A Meath GP has called on the Health Minister, James Reilly, to order the Health Information and Quality Authority to carry out an inspection of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
GP and hospital campaigner, Ruairi Hanley, has written to the Minister calling for an inspection in light of overcrowding in Drogheda and fears of closures at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan. His letter was also signed by Deputy Peadar Toibín.
Dr Hanley said he was making the call in view of ongoing plans to downgrade Our Lady's Hospital, Navan.
"It was made clear at a recent meeting between the HSE, members of the Save Navan Hospital committee and Dail deputies for the area, that regional administrators remain determined to reduce acute medical services in Co Meath.
"Although we recognise no definite decision has been made, it appears likely that the HSE will begin this process by closing the Emergency Department in Our Lady's Hospital Navan overnight in the near future. This will result in patients being forced to attend Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda instead".
Dr Hanley said that medical professionals in the region do not support the proposals and regard them as a direct threat to patient safety.
"Indeed, the chair of the medical board of Our Lady's Hospital, Navan has publicly stated that any such downgrading would be unsafe. This is a view shared by general practitioners throughout the North East, in particular those affiliated to the NEDOC co-operative which has a base in the grounds of the hospital," he said.
Dr Hanley said the overcrowding crisis in Our Lady of Lourdes Drogheda continues. "The Irish Nurses Organisation reports that from January to April this year 2422 patients were treated on trolleys in that facility. This comes in spite of a direct intervention by the Special Delivery Unit (with the investment of Ä750,000 ) in November 2011".
"It should also be noted that the situation in Drogheda has steadily worsened over the past two to three years as the HSE pursued their downgrading agenda in Navan, Monaghan and Dundalk. The figures from the INMO are stark - in 2010, 1664 patients were on trolleys in Drogheda between January and July and this rose to 3266 in the equivalent period of 2011.
"Meanwhile, in Cavan, where the HSE assured the public there would be no risk to patients following the downgrading of Monaghan, the results are even more depressing. Between January and July 2009 there were 746 patients on trolleys in Cavan, this rose to 1443 in January to July 2010 and a staggering 2745 in January to July 2011".
Dr Hanley said that despite these shocking statistics, the HSE's continue to claim that their actions have been in the best interests of "patient safety" - a claim that is quite simply ludicrous.
He said that at a recent meeting, senior administrators repeatedly stated that they were under pressure from HIQA to further downgrade Our Lady's Hospital Navan as it was "unsafe" to have 24 hour acute medical and intensive care services.
"It beggars belief that the HSE (and presumably HIQA) can make this claim when the clear impact of such a move would be an increase in trolley based patient suffering. No medical professional in this country would accept that ED overcrowding is in the best interest of patient safety and to imply otherwise is irrational, hypocritical and fundamentally wrong".
Dr Hanley said he could not accept that the HSE are acting in the best interests of patients.
He recalled that Deputy Peadar Toibin, Deputy Gerry Adams and and he himself formally requested that HIQA carry out a full investigation of Our Lady of Lourdes hospital Drogheda due to its significant levels but HIQA repeatedly refused to carry out the requested investigation.
Deputy Tóibín said that there was "a serious responsibility on the shoulders of the Minister.
"Current practices and potential HSE decisions could have grave consequences on patient safety.
"Given the extreme trolley count in the region if the Minister fails to ensure the necessary investigations are carried out by HIQA, I believe that the minister would be in dereliction of his duty of care to citizens."