Cork lives will be lost if Bantry General Hospital (BGH) is downgraded, doctors in the region have warned.
Doctors in West Cork are concerned about possible HSE plans to downgrade BGH to a model-2 hospital, similar to that in Roscommon.
The Echo has seen correspondence from December 2019 between some hospital consultants and Dr Michael Power, national clinical lead for the HSE Critical Care programme, in which Dr Power suggested that BGH undergo “an orderly transition to model-2 hospital”.
Dr Power claimed this would be aided by the Bantry West Cork Community Acute Response Partnership which he proposed as a partnership to strengthen stakeholders in the region “in their responses to seriously ill and seriously injured patients”.
Ahead of a meeting on the issue between HSE officials and healthcare workers in the hospital tomorrow night, GPs have warned that this will lead to the loss of the hospital’s 24-hour emergency department and have a huge impact on patients.
In an email sent to GPs in the region and seen by The Echo, Dr Giette Wieneke of the Marino Medical Centre in Bantry, warned that the downgrading of the hospital would have a major impact on patients in the region.
“No emergency ambulance will be allowed to go to BGH,” she said.
“All ambulances will go to Cork University Hospital (CUH), even if this means passing BGH, however serious the emergency is.
“BGH will only be open from 9am to 5pm for non acute patients — so nobody who is acutely sick, even with a chest infection or flu, can be seen locally.
“BGH will lose acute hospital status, which will have a huge impact on treatments.
“As a non-acute hospital, BGH won’t be able to recruit or retain highly qualified staff, in all departments and disciplines as it does now.”
Dr Wieneke also warned of the knock-on effect the move would have on hospital journey times, as ambulances in West Cork will be forced instead to go to CUH.
“Delays in ambulances arriving to calls will increase,” she said. “CUH is already under extreme pressure with patients waiting on trolleys for long periods of time and ambulances unable to unload — this will get worse.
“West Cork lives will be lost.”
Dr Wieneke’s email went on to explain that GPs found out about this “life-threatening decision” after several meetings with senior HSE staff.
“GPs initially hoped the new proposed ‘West Cork Community Acute Response Partnership’ was going to change things for the better, increasing funding and resources,” she said.
“During discussions it became apparent that the ‘West Cork Community Acute Response Partnership’ was a vehicle to provide more emergency cover via GPs in preparation for the downgrading of BGH to a model-2 hospital.
“Local GPs were concerned, angry, and disappointed with the announcement believing it to be detrimental to patient care in West Cork.”
The South/South-West Hospital Group was contacted for comment.