The HSE has been accused of “dancing around” the issue of whether or not it plans to downgrade Bantry General Hospital’s acute admissions service in a move that would see ambulances forced instead to go to Cork University Hospital (CUH).
In December 2019, Dr Michael Power, the national clinical lead for Critical Care Programmes in the HSE said it would be his “input” that Bantry General Hospital be downgraded to a model two facility.
Consultants at the hospital advocated against such a move and GPs in the region warned that it would lead to a loss of life.
The South/South West Hospital Group has claimed there are no plans to downgrade the hospital while the HSE has since refused to clarify Dr Power’s comments.
However, Bantry GP Dr Paul O’Sullivan said healthcare workers in the region still believe the HSE will try to rid the hospital of its acute emergency access service.
Speaking after a meeting between doctors in the region and the HSE this week, Dr O’Sullivan said:
“They put out all very flowery language claiming there will be significant investment in Bantry Hospital.
“But the thing that we are very much worried about is the fact that it looks like they’re going to try to withdraw 24-hour acute medical emergency access to the hospital,” he added.
“That means that patients and ambulances will be forced to go to CUH, meaning a journey of over 100 kilometres to the door, along with the wait time to actually be seen.
“When they were pressed about the retention of the 24 hour acute medical cover, they did not respond to it, they just danced around it, engaging in lawyer and politician speak.”
Hospital management at BGH performed an exercise in 2003, which estimated that at least 18 deaths per year would occur in the event of a downgrading.
Dr O’Sullivan said this was a conservative estimate.
He warned that losing the acute emergency admissions service at BGH could make General Practice in West Cork unviable.
Dr O’Sullivan said GPs in the region feel that the HSE is going to leave local services completely unsafe and exposed.
The HSE were once again asked for comment on the issue.
However, it was the South/South West Hospital Group who responded, saying they can confirm that there are “no current plans to downgrade Bantry General Hospital."
“The group has nothing further to add to the previous statement on this matter,” a spokesperson concluded.