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In a debate on Portlaoise Hospital Minister for Health James Reilly said:
First of all, I want to place it on record that the Midland Regional Hospital at Portlaoise will continue to deliver a quality driven, people centred service to the population of the region and the people of Laois in particular. There is no plan to reduce services at the hospital.
I remain committed to ensuring that acute hospital services at national, regional and local level are provided in a clinically appropriate and efficient manner. In particular I want to ensure that as many services as possible can be provided safely in smaller, local hospitals.
I have also made it clear that patient safety must be the overriding priority and I want patients to be treated at the lowest level of complexity that is safe, timely, and efficient and as near to home as possible. Patients should only have to travel to the larger hospitals for more complex services.
In the recent past there has been a lot of speculation regarding the future of the hospital. Certain reports have cited correspondence and have referred to the possibility of Portlaoise becoming a Model 2 hospital, which would have implications in particular for the Emergency Department.
In July of this year I attended the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children and made clear that Portlaoise is a Model 3 hospital and will remain a Model 3 hospital. I said to the committee that this is Government policy and will not change. I confirm that this remains the position.
I might mention that I intend to develop a framework for the development of smaller hospitals which secures their future and specifies the additional services which it is safe for them to provide. The framework will underline the Government’s commitment to the real development of smaller hospitals – not their closure, as some people would have us believe.
In relation to the Intensive Care Unit and critical care of patients at Portlaoise, there is currently a four bedded ICU with the capacity to ventilate two patients should the requirement arise. As Portlaoise provides both Obstetric and Gynaecology and Paediatric Services 24/7, anaesthetic and surgical cover is required 24/7 on site. In this regard, I am happy to confirm that it is envisaged the Midlands Regional Hospital at Portlaoise will maintain its current ICU service.
Furthermore, a proposition to appoint a Clinical Director for the Midlands region is currently being considered by the HSE. A single Clinical Director would lead the provision of these services within the Region and within the guidance of the National Clinical Care Programmes.
In advance of that process I wish to re-iterate that the retention of Portlaoise hospital as a Model 3 facility remains Government policy. Accordingly, the recent speculation around the “downgrading” of Portlaoise hospital is not accurate. I am pleased to set the record straight.