Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Department of Health
Question 506: To ask the Minister for Health if he will give an assurance that there will be no downgrading of the services being offered at present from Bantry General Hospital, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21089/11]
I am committed to ensuring that acute hospital services at national, regional and local level are provided in a clinically appropriate and efficient manner. In particular I want to ensure that as many services as possible can be provided safely in smaller, local hospitals. I have also made it clear that patient safety must be the overriding priority. I want patients to be treated at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, and efficient and as near to home as possible.
The configuration of services is constantly reviewed and from time to time re-arranged to improve access and quality of service and minimise risk to patients. This programme of realignment of services has received recent impetus from HIQA in relation to the need to implement the recommendations from the Ennis and Mallow reports. The reports deal in particular with the type of services that can safely be provided in smaller hospitals and the structures required for good governance and accountability. The HSE must ensure that this happens and I will be monitoring the situation closely in conjunction with HIQA
The HSE has now put an implementation team in place to ensure that the recommendations of both the Ennis and Mallow reports are implemented in a speedy, systematic and consistent manner and I have asked for regular progress reports on this important initiative.
I recognises the vital service that Bantry Hospital provides to the people of west Cork and I want it to deliver services safely and appropriately. It will continue to provide consultant-delivered, selected acute medicine and geriatric medicine and day surgery. It will also provide outreach specialist services for initial assessment and post-treatment follow up care, in areas such as gynaecology, rheumatology, orthopaedics, urology and gastroenterology. There will be at least five consultant physicians based at Bantry, for a viable consultant duty roster, as part in the regional hospital network. Its location, activity and integration with local primary and community care services will make it an important teaching site for medical and other health profession students from UCC.
This Government is strongly committed to developing the role of smaller hospitals in Ireland so that they play a key part in the services provided to local communities. Patients should only have to travel to the larger hospitals for more complex services. The HIQA reports are entirely in keeping with this approach.
I can assure the public that no hospitals will close, regardless of the difficult economic situation we find ourselves in. However, ongoing reform of the system will require some changes in how care is delivered in some locations across our health system.