It appears that yet more hospital cuts are on the way here in the north west. The latest hospital to be targeted by the Health Service Executive (HSE) and their political masters is Our Lady's Hospital in Manorhamilton Co Leitrim.
Over recent years, Our Lady's has already been downgraded significantly, having suffered the loss of a wide range of services previously carried out in the hospital. Amongst the loss of services has been the closure of the Accident & Emergency (A&E) department, the removal of endoscopy and maternity services and the transfer of the orthopaedic unit to Sligo General Hospital (SGH).
The fear of most people in the north Leitrim area, including staff at the hospital, is that the ultimate aim of the HSE is to shut the facility altogether, shutting it down one cutback and downgrade at a time.
When questioned on their plans for the Rheumatology services, the HSE used the dreaded R word saying that they were continuing to “'review' all elements of the Rheumatology service” at Our Lady's. They went on to confirm that what they describe as a “reconfiguration of beds” will take place in the coming months at the hospital admitting that there were plans already underway to transfer acute in-patient Rheumatology services to Sligo General Hospital which is already suffering the brunt of savage cutbacks with yet more planned.
Last year SGH seen the removal of its breast cancer mammography and surgical services to Galway, the closure of its dedicated stroke unit, the loss of 72 beds and the cancellation of all elective surgery for the last two months of the year. Orthopaedic services have also been particularly hard hit. As pointed out at the start of this article, orthopaedic services previously provided in Manorhamilton was transferred to Sligo a number of years back. Now those services in Sligo, which were supposed to cater for Manorhamiltons patients as well, have been stripped to the bone. One of the two orthopaedic wards has already been shut down, with patient capacity reduced from 52 beds to just 18.
Now those 18 beds are being reduced even further to just 12 beds as the hospital starts to cut back on elective surgery and orthopaedic activity for the rest of the year as part of its cost cutting measures.
In a statement released on August 3rd this year, the Irish Nurses & Midwives Organisation (INMO) made clear that “the level of cuts, currently being imposed upon our public health service, are compromising patient care, lowering standards and greatly increasing the clinical risk to patients.”
The statement added: “Furthermore frontline nurses and midwives are having their views ignored and every effort they are making, to highlight real and significant risks to patients, are being simply set aside.”
According to éirígí activist Gerry Casey, the HSE and their political masters have decimated services at SGH and Our Lady's in Manorhamilton and put lives at risk in the process.
Casey said: “The HSE and this administration has repeatedly shown a callous disregard for the health and well being of the people of this region and for the public health service in general.”
“What we are seeing is cutback after cutback in essential front line services. The end result is patients on trolleys, longer waiting lists, ill people having to travel long distances to receive treatment, prolonged suffering and lives being placed unnecessarily at risk.”
He added: “As éirígí have repeatedly pointed out, contrary to what the HSE and their political masters would have us believe, the cutbacks are not based on economic necessity. They are instead part of a deliberate strategy of running down and dismantling the public health care system in order to pave the way for the privatisation of our hospitals.”
“Given the choice of protecting the health and well being of the people they claim to represent or bail out the banks, they have shown where their warped priorities lie by taking a conscious decision to pump tens of billions of euros into bailing out the banks while slashing essential health services.”
Casey concluded: “This is a fight that working class communities cannot afford to lose. It is vital that no compromise or 'deals' are made on these cutbacks, in particular from the leadership of the health service Trade Unions. It has been previous such 'deals' that has led our health service to this present crisis. Reducing the level of cutbacks is not a solution - only the ending of the drive towards privatisation of the public health system and the complete reversal of all cutbacks is acceptable.”