Mayor of Ennis Johnny Flynn has led the call for a meeting with the new CEO of UL Hospital Group in a bid to secure a 24-hour emergency department at Ennis General Hospital.
Another Ennis Municipal District Councillor, James Breen, has challenged the council members to hold a protest at the next meeting of the HSE and offered to lead the protest wherever the meeting is taking place.
Professor Colette Cowan was appointed to head the hospital group last December and Councillor Flynn said it is time to take their case to the new CEO to try to put a stop to the drain of health expertise from the county into Limerick.
Speaking at a Clare County Council meeting, Councillor Flynn said the drain of expertise began a decade ago with the set-up of the HSE and has snowballed to such an extent that stopping it is like trying to turn an oil tanker.
“When you looked at the HSE West major emergency plan a number of years ago, Ennis was seen as a 24-hour major emergency hospital to deal with an international incident that might occur at Shannon Airport. Nenagh was also on the plan and when I raised it with the previous ministers of health and defence in the previous government, the HSE major emergency plan was changed to remove Ennis and Nenagh as available resources in the event of a major emergency in the region,” he said.
Councillor Flynn said Clare and the region is completely under-resourced and there is an expected population growth in Ennis district alone from 32,000 to as much as 50,000.
“I think it’s ridiculous that the HSE are not planning for A&E in Clare and 500,000 visitors come into the county as well each year,” he said.
Councillor Pat Daly said he had visited Ennis Hospital recently and that there are a number of welcome improvements, including the 50-bed unit and others but there are problems, particularly in the emergency department.
“With a population of over 100,000 I ask Minister Varadkar to reopen Ennis General Hospital 24 hours a day. I something serious happened in this county by the time you get to Limerick, it won’t be worth talking about. This is ongoing for a long time now. We have an A&E there with great improvements in the hospital but we have more offices there than beds and it’s really downgraded to small injuries.
“I call on Minister Varadkar to reopen Ennis General Hospital for the people of Clare. It’s just not working now and it’s hard to go to Limerick at 10pm or midnight or 3am,” he said. “It’s a serious health and safety issue.”
Councillor Christy Curtin said the infrastructure of Ennis Hospital is good and on the eve of a general election, it is the time to give something back to Clare.
Councillor Tom McNamara, chairman of HSE West forum, said he would welcome Professor Cowan to Ennis to address the council on their plans. He said while there are four Model 3 hospitals, providing 24-hour emergency department service, along the western seaboard of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal, in the Shannon Region of Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary there are none.
Councillor Breen said he knows people waiting for minor surgery in Ennis Hospital for the last eight months and was told the other day there will be a wait of at least two more months.
“We’re talking about the HSE. I challenge the members of this council to stage a protest outside the next HSE meeting in the Mid-West,” he said, claiming that the CEO won’t come in to talk to them and said he is prepared to lead a protest wherever it’s held.
Councillor PJ Ryan said it is chaos in University Hospital Limerick and added that Professor Cowan said recently that the new emergency department in Limerick may be open in 2017 or in 2018.
“A Model 3 hospital is what we’re calling for and we will not stop until it is provided,” he said.
Councillor Flynn said the objective of the motion is for a wide-ranging report from the new UL Hospital Group CEO, in person or in writing, on the level of compliance with the commitment given that the health services in Clare would be better after reconfiguration, which has now gone on for five or six years and should include all areas, including levels of staffing compared to other areas. “That’s the objective of it,” he added.