Despite the encouraging news that has emerged about maternity services in South Tipperary in the foreseeable future the alert status that hangs over our acute hospital services should be maintained.The under threat maternity services at South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel are likely to escape closure on this occasion by the Government as a new look hospital re-structuring takes place. The south east model that always pertained to hospital services in South Tipperary is set to disappear with Kilkenny and Wexford to become aligned to prestigious teaching hospitals in Dublin which greatly enhances both hospitals, which are in the constituencies of Ministers Hogan and Howlin, and the potential for development in the future. It was widely expected that one maternity unit in the south east would close in this re-structuring and Clonmel was the favourite to go. Now acccording to Fine Gael Deputy Tom Hayes the government is set to keep Clonmel maternity open and that South Tipp General along with Waterford will link up with Cork University Hospital. That is welcome news that will be greeted with relief not only in South Tipperary but also West Waterford and North Tipperary which rely on the excellent maternity services provided in Clonmel. Earlier this year Minister Reilly informed backbenchers that one maternity unit in the south east had to go. Closure of the maternity services in Clonmel would have had a devastating knock on effect on other acute hospital services such as paediatric services, twenty four hour anaesthetic services, emergency department and in-patient general surgical services. At least South Tipperary has been spared this disturbing scenario for now. This decision is to be widely welcomed but Minister Reilly has to earn the trust of the staff and the patients and public that rely on South Tipperary General as another new era in acute hospital services begins. Because of the track record of Health Ministers and the HSE and their decision making regarding South Tipperary hospital services the public will remain on guard. The people of South Tipperary are as entitled to access to the full range of acute hospital services that the constituents of Ministers Hogan and Howlin are guaranteed. The Taoiseach and Tanaiste both gave assurances about the acute hospital services during the last general election campaign. For now we hold what we have but it is incumbent on all to maintain the pressure on this government who might be tempted to look at the maternity services again when this re-structuring process is bedded in.
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