A POLITICAL row has erupted between Clare deputies amid claims of a postponement in the removal of in-patient cardiac services at Ennis hospital.
Deputy Pat Breen has claimed that Defence Minister Tony Killeen and Deputy Timmy Dooley tried to have the centralisation of cardiac services postponed until after the next general election.
Deputy Breen stated during a Dáil debate on Tuesday night that he wouldn’t be surprised if the proposed transfer of in-patient cardiac services from Ennis to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick on February 1 next was put back to avoid a backlash on the doorstep for the two Fianna Fáil deputies.
The Clare Champion understands that critically ill patients cannot be ventilated any longer at Ennis hospital, following the implementation of recommendations contained in a recent HIQA report, while the majority of serious cardiac arrests have to be taken directly to Limerick under the acute trauma bypass introduced a few years ago.
It is also understood that cardiac patients will no longer be admitted to Ennis once a fourth cardiologist is appointed to Limerick to provide cover on a 24-hour basis.
Deputy Breen said Deputy Dooley was recently quoted as saying the start of construction work on the €15 million upgrading of Ennis was a “vote of confidence” in the hospital.
“How could this be the case? Ennis has been stripped of its acute surgery, 24-hour emergency department and intensive care is gone,” Deputy Breen asked.
Next February, in-patient cardiac services will transfer to Limerick (including a shutdown of the High Dependency Unit) as part of the HSE’s plan to centralise cardiac services.
Deputies Joe Carey and Pat Breen claimed that after their Dáil motion, they secured a commitment from Government that “all cardiology service currently available at Ennis General would continue and that their future is secure”.
Defence Minister Tony Killeen said he had arranged a meeting with Health Minister Mary Harney along with Deputy Timmy Dooley on Monday evening.
Deputy Killeen told The Clare Champion assurances he received from the minister were at variance to the speculation about cardiac services at Ennis.
Deputy Dooley insisted he and Minister Killeen sought a meeting with Minister Harney after they were made aware of concerns about the hospital before Deputy Breen raised the issue in the local media.
“We asked the minister to clarify this issue to deal with a number of concerns and it had nothing to do with any other issue,” he said.
Minister of State, John Moloney, explained Minister Harney is anxious that day-case surgery and diagnostic work should continue to be expanded at Ennis.
“The future of cardiology services at Ennis General Hospital is secure and they will continue to be provided by a specialist cardiology team. In fact, these services will be expanded further with the addition of cardiac failure clinics and cardiac rehabilitation services for patients who have had the acute phase of their illness managed in the Mid-West Regional Hospital, Limerick.
“The unanimous medical advice is to centralise acute cardiology to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital Limerick. A fourth cardiologist is being appointed to facilitate a separate cardiology rota, giving patients access to a cardiologist on a 24-hour basis for emergency cases in the region,” he noted.
“Six additional in-patient cardiology beds will be designated in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital Limerick to support this service. These developments will be brought on stream in the course of 2011, after the fourth cardiologist has taken up duty.
“General medicine services will continue to be provided at Ennis. The majority of medical patients, including respiratory patients, will continue to be treated at the hospital,” he concluded
The Mid-West HSE has confirmed that out-patient and cardiac day services will continue to be provided by Dr Terry Hennessy and the specialist cardiac team in Ennis hospital and further enhancement of these services is planned.