Belfast Telegraph

Anger as Navan hospital services go

Union leaders and politicians have condemned a controversial decision to axe all acute and medical surgery at a regional hospital.

Patients attending Our Lady's Hospital (OLH) in Navan needing an urgent operation will be transferred to another facility under new procedures announced by health chiefs. The Health Service Executive (HSE) said the decision was made "in the interest of providing the highest quality of service to patients and following expert clinical advice".

However the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) maintained there was no clinical basis for the decision. Industrial Relations Officer, Tony Fitzpatrick, claimed it was made purely on funding and financial grounds. "The INMO is seeking an urgent meeting with management with regard to this decision," he added.

Opposition politicians maintain the decision was a political move which would be the demise of Navan.

In a statement, the HSE North East revealed OLH deals with just four emergency surgical admissions per day, with only one requiring a surgical intervention within 24 hours.

Anyone requiring acute/emergency surgery will be transferred to either Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, Cavan General Hospital or Dublin's Mater, Beaumont and Connolly Hospitals. Patients with a medical condition such as stroke, cardiac arrest, diabetes will be admitted to Navan and orthopaedic services will also continue as normal at the site. Those requiring non urgent surgical procedures will be referred to outpatient, day case or inpatient surgical services.

There has been no major surgery at Navan since 2006, with keyhole surgery stopped last month. But the INMO argued only last year a report found Navan was a safe and appropriate setting for minor and intermediate level surgery and for emergency appendectomies and herniorrhaphy.

Labour's Jan O'Sullivan said the government originally promised a major new hospital at Navan. "Instead, what we are getting is the destruction of Navan Hospital by a thousand cuts," she said. "Step by step the services are being withdrawn from Navan and it is only a matter of time before (Health Minister) Mary Harney and the HSE tells us that the hospital is no longer viable and will have to close totally."

Fine Gael's Damien English said Navan hospital was a vital facility for the entire county, and beyond. "This policy of downgrading Navan hospital makes no sense, especially when services are being transferred to hospitals which are already at over-capacity," he said. "These decisions are being taken for purely political decisions."

Caoimhghin O Caolain, of Sinn Fein, said the last thing in the minds of those responsible for the outrageous decision is patient care and safety. "The first and foremost influence in all decisions taken regarding the configuration of acute hospital services in the North East is cost," he added.

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