A decision by the new Minister for Health to halt reconfiguration plans for the hospital services in the south east has given the campaign to save acute services at South Tipperary General Hospital a massive boost.
One of the consultants leading the campaign, Dr Paud O’Regan, said the intervention by Minister James Reilly has blocked the advanced plans of the HSE to close St. Michael’s psychiatric unit in Clonmel and transfer acute surgery, maternity and paediatric services to Kilkenny and Waterford.
Dr.O’Regan called on the HSE to abide by the Minister’s wishes and welcomed the development as a significant step towards protecting the services that exist at South Tipperary General Hospital.
A statement made by Minister Reilly on St Patricks Day was widely welcomed in South Tipperary.
“I can’t make it more clear, no withdrawal of services anywhere within the hospital sector until such time as we’ve had the opportunity to review it and the implications in each individual case. I decided long before the election that if we were lucky enough to get into government that we would do this because I don’t believe, in some instances, that it’s appropriate, ”said the new Health Minister.
Consultant Dr O’Regan said everybody involved in the campaign to protect services in South Tipperary was delighted with the statement by the Minster and he hoped the HSE would abide by the minister’s wishes.
The Clonmel consultant said that he was confident, given the statement, that the threat of closure hanging over St Michael’s psychiatric unit at STGH would be removed and again he did not expect the HSE to go against the wishes of the minister.
Dr. O’Regan said the HSE had accelerated plans to close St. Michael’s and plans to move surgery from South Tipperary General were at an avanced stage with transfer of maternity and paediatric services to follow.
“I am very relieved by the Minister’s statement, we welcome the minister’s decision to wipe the slate clean and carry out a new review,” he said.
Dr. O’Regan said that STGH would co-operate fully with whatever review was put in place and would welcome any ministerial visits .
“We welcome the review as long as it is conducted without any preconceived ideas as to what the outcome will be,” he said
Dr.O’Regan said he was confident in saying there was no question now of closure of St Michael’s later this year which the HSE had planned to do. He said that decision to close St Michael’s was ‘deeply flawed’ and was taken without any consultation with patients, nursing staff, GPs and consultants.
He welcomed a full appraisal of the St.Michael unit as well as a review of the services as outlined by the Minister .
The Minister’s statement has also been welcomed by Deputy Seamus Healy, Chairperson of the Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee.
Speaking in the Dáil on the election of the Taoiseach, Deputy Healy reminded both coalition parties that they had made pre-election commitments to retain all existing acute hospital services at South Tipperary General Hospital.
Deputy Healy said “ The organisation and delivery of acute hospital services nationally and in South Tipperary is of huge importance to patients, their families and the public generally. The Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee, of which I am Chair, has received election commitments from both Fine Gael and the Labour Party confirming the retention of all existing acute hospital services at South Tipp. General Hospital. I will be relentlessly pursuing the honouring of these committements. Today, I call on the incoming Health Minister to immediately instruct the HSE to halt the reconfiguration process”.
Deputy Healy believes that this is a significant first step to ensuring the retention of all acute services at South Tipperary General Hospital.
However, he called for continuing vigilance, as he believed there are still senior officials within the Health Service Executive committed to the withdrawal of services from the hospital.
A further important development will be the visit to the hospital by Mr Cathal Magee, Chief Executive Officer of the Health Service Executive.
The Hospital Board has issued an invitation to Mr Magee and Deputy Healy understands that the invitation has been accepted and the visit will take place in the near future.