SOUTH Tipperary General Hospital is facing a new threat of closure to some of its key services, if a report published to Fine Gael backbenchers recently comes into force. Chairperson of the Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee Seamus Healy TD is warning the public that they may need to take to the streets again to save Clonmel’s Maternity Ward - now being singled out for amalgamation with other hospitals in the South East.
Deputy Healy said the Committee is meeting on Monday evening, before the matter is raised with Minister James Reilly on Tuesday. Once the matter goes to Cabinet level, it’s hoped the Committee will meet with Minister Reilly in the next two weeks to press their case for retaining all services at South Tipp General. “Maternity is a crucial part of the hospital as a number of other specialities revolve around it, including Paediatrics - which would be immediately be put at risk,” Deputy Healy told the Tipperary Star. “24-hour Anaesthetic Cover would be at risk, and that would put the A&E Department at risk. Then you would only have a minor injuries unit, say from 8am to 8pm.” The loss of the 24-hour anaesthetic cover could endanger in-patient general surgery, leading to a slow hollowing-out of the hospital’s services over time. “It would lead to the asset stripping of the hospital, and effectively the downgrading of the hospital: from what is now an acute hospital to just a day hospital,” said Deputy Healy.
Save Our Acute Hospital Services Committee is putting in place a programme of public information and a protest campaign to save Maternity. “This will only be done by people taking to the streets. We’ve done that before and we’d certainly be doing it again unless we get the guarantees we’re asking for. We have already got commitments from the Taoiseach, the Minister for Health, and the Tánaiste, prior to the last General Election.”
This new threat to the hospital comes after some backbench government TDs were briefed on a report last Wednesday week (February 13). The report, compiled by a Professor John Higgins, outlines the future amalgamation of hospital services in the South East. The report proposes the break-up of the South East as a HSE region for maternity care, with Kilkenny and Wexford being linked to Dublin, while South Tipp is linked to Waterford and Cork. Deputy Healy said one of the Maternity wings in the South East would be closing. “We’re afraid they’ll be targeting Clonmel. It’s not the first time they’ve tried to do it,” he said. “That’s what gives us serious cause for concern.
“We have a very broad campaign involving all political parties, staff and patients at the hospital, and community groups right across the County. We’ll be meeting the Minister with a full compliment of people who are committed to the hospital,” added Deputy Healy. “We’ve done this before and we’re starting on the same road again.”