The laboratory service at Nenagh Hospital is to move to Limerick, the HSE has confirmed to the Tipperary Star. The matter was raised at this Monday’s Nenagh Town Council meeting, at which Cllr Seamus Morris claimed the move was because the staff and equipment were needed to deal with problems in Limerick.
According to Cllr Seamus Morris, there is a seven-day backlog in blood testing in Limerick and the HSE has requested that staff and equipment be transferred from Nenagh. Around 12 staff work in Nenagh between a chief scientist, an assistant, technicians and one secretary.
In a statement to the Tipperary Star this Tuesday, the HSE said: “Work on reconfiguring laboratory services has been going on in parallel with the centralisation of complex surgery and medicine in Dooradoyle.
“This means an improved service for patients, savings for the taxpayer of approximately E1.5m per year and no job losses for laboratory staff.
“In addition to hospital work, primary care testing, ie for GPs, will be centralised.
“Geographically, the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick, is within 30 miles of all the JEN sites (St John’s, Ennis and Nenagh hospitals) and connected by motorway to Ennis and Nenagh. This means that samples can be transported within 30 minutes at all times.
“Based on these changes, centralsation of the laboratories to a single laboratory in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick, will ensure sustainable staffing, reduce costs and maintain appropriate quality standards within the region. It is also in accord with national policy as endorsed by successive governments and approved by the scientific authorities.”
The spokesperson pointed out that acute hospital services in the Mid-West had been reorganised in recent years with complex surgery and medicine being transferred to Dooradoyle, day case work expanding in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s and the ambulance service improved through the introduction of advanced paramedics. In addition, the six hospital sites, Dooradoyle, Nenagh, Ennis, Croom, Regional Maternity and St John’s have been incorporated into a unified hospital group operating under one chief executive with a common budget and medical directors working across all locations.
Cllr Morris revealed to the Tipperary Star that a staff member had told him the lab was due to close in July. The Tipperary Star understands that the chief scientist in Limerick is to retire shortly and when that happens the staff in Nenagh will be brought in to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital.
The Sinn Fein councillor further claimed that there were 80 people on trolleys in Limerick last Friday and because Nenagh and Ennis hospitals were unable to accommodate the overflow, admissions to the Regional Hospital were suspended.
“If it were no so funny, it would be sad,” he told Nenagh Town Council. “I don’t know how long we have been warning about this, but the penny is starting to drop.”
He again called on Nenagh Town Council to write to the Health Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) asking the authority to investigate conditions at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, saying that people have “no fate in the hospitals in the Mid-West”.
“The whole system is collapsing around their ears. It is clearly not working. The HSE is reacting to each crisis instead of having a proper plan,” he stated.
Cllr Morris maintained that the medical staff and doctors knew that we had had a mild winter but that there was likely to be an increase in patients once the weather broke.
“The HSE was hoping against hope that that would happen,” he said.
The SF councillor said there was “no point” giving North Tipperary extra ambulance staff when the ambulances were “becoming the hospitals. It is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Fine Gael’s Cllr Conor Delaney said that if what Cllr Morris outlined was true then pressure should be put on Hiqa to investigate conditions in Limerick.
“This comes as no surprise to us. We knew all along that unless a centre of excellence was in operation before any downgrading took place that this was going to happen,” he said.
“We owe it to the people of Nenagh to investigate what is going on in Limerick,” said Cllr Delaney.
Meanwhile, according to Nenagh hospital sources, the HSE is spending an estimated E50,000 replacing a concrete roof on the new building currently underway on the hospital campus. The source said the roof was laid six inches too high for specifications and needed to be redone.