A&E services downgrade threat sparks backlash

Story by Ann Casey

Wednesday, 7th November, 2018 10:54am

A&E services downgrade threat sparks backlash

Fears for Navan's A&E service intensified this week, following comments by the former head of the HSE, Tony O'Brien, that he would have pushed ahead with plans to close the Emergency Department in Navan.

The Irish East Hospital Group added fuel to the flames this week by pointing out that Our Lady’s Hospital Navan (OLHN) is the only one of the nine hospitals identified in the Smaller Hospitals’ Framework that has not yet been re-configured.
The objective to close the ED in hospitals like Navan and replace them with daytime Local Injury Units is detailed in the Small Hospital Framework Document. The Save Navan Hospital Campaign is now urging the public to come out in large numbers to attend its annual meeting which takes place in the Newgrange Hotel on Thursday night at 8pm.
“Our Lady's Hospital, Navan is facing a real and present danger. The Save Navan Hospital Campaign will continue to fight this,” said chairman, Deputy Peadar Toibin.
However, Minister Damien English said this week that “changes cannot be made to Navan A&E unless a better, safer and more efficient health provision is put in place for the people of Navan, Meath and the North East.”
Tony O’Brien described the Navan facility in an interview at the weekend as an emergency department he personally “would have no wish to be taken to.”
This adds fuel to the fears that the HSE will move to reduce A&E cover at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan to a 12 hour service only, in line with the Small Hospitals Framework Plan.
Tony O'Brien, speaking in an in-depth interview with the Sunday Business Post, confirmed that he would have made widespread cuts to emergency medicine.
O’Brien stepped down from his position in May, following the fallout of the Cervical Check scandal.
“I would have ended 24-hour emergency department cover in a number of (hospital) locations,” he said in the interview with Susan Mitchell.
Mr O'Brien cited Navan hospital as being the 'best example' of the need to remove full A&E services suggesting it received very few presentations overnight but is staffed 24/7 relying on expensive locum doctors.
“It's a wasteful use of public resource. And it's not an emergency department I personally would have a wish to be taken to,” he said.
Following his remarks, there was little reassurance on the future of the Navan ED from the Ireland East Hospital Group of which the Navan Hospital is a member.
A spokesperson said it was the only one of the nine hospitals where services hadn't been reconfigured.
“Ireland East Hospital Group is continuously engaging with key stakeholders and are committed to patient safety in line with the implementation of Government policy,” he said.
In 2016 the HSE advertised for a General Manager for Our Lady's Hospital whose remit included “the transition of Navan to a model two hospital.” This would mean the closure of A&E and the creation of a local injury unit.
However, Cllr Wayne Forde says he has a commitment in writing from the HSE that all acute emergency services in Navan will be safe until at least July 2019, which is eight months closer to a General Election - an unlikely time to reduce services.
Local GP and Save Navan Hospital Campaigner, Dr Ruairi Hanley rejected Mr O'Brien's remarks. “Navan hospital provides a vital service for Meath and surrounding counties and without a 24/7 ED, there would be many more patients lying on trolleys in Drogheda and this wouldn't be in the best interest of patients.
“He spoke of expensive locum doctors but the solution to this is to employ permanent doctors. Such an investment is vital to secure Navan's future,” Dr Hanley said.