BANTRY General Hospital is in imminent danger of being downgraded to a tier-two hospital which would see it close at 5pm.
The claim, according to Independent TD Michael Collins, ‘is not an election stunt’ and confirms rumours that had been circulating in the town over the weekend.
The TD said: ‘There is a very real danger that this could happen. Staff at the hospital are seriously concerned about impending changes that could see the doors of the hospital close at 5pm in the evening.’
A local GP has said the fear in the medical community is that this will signal the end of the hospital and could potentially cause deaths as people wil be forced to travel long distances to Cork for treatment after 5pm – some from as far away as Castletownbere.
Deputy Collins has written to both Ger Reaney, of the Cork and Kerry Community Healthcare Organisation, and Health Minister Simon Harris to say ‘such changes will not be tolerated by the 80,000-plus members of the population it serves.’
The Bantry-based GP has also expressed his fear that this is ‘the most serious threat to Bantry General Hospital in the last 20 years, since they removed the 24-hour surgery service.’
The doctor said the proposed downgrading of Bantry General Hospital is likely to be discussed at a meeting of the members of the West Cork Irish Council of General Practitioners Faculty and Clinic Society at the Parkway Hotel in Dunmanway at 8pm on Thursday night, January 16th.
The meeting was scheduled to discuss the roll out of ‘emergency bags’ for GPs attending patients in an emergency situation. However, members of the medical community now fear an announcement along the lines that the hospital can no longer continue with 24-hour admissions and will be changed to a tier-two hospital, similar to Roscommon.
Such a move would, according to the Bantry GP, be ‘fiercely resisted’ by GPs and hospital consultants because it would be the ‘death knell’ for Bantry Hospital. ‘It could, in all possibility, lead to patient deaths because they would have no option but to travel to CUH after 5pm in the evening.’
Deputy Collins said he did everything in his power to stop the closure of the overnight accident and emergency (A&E) unit in July 2013, but he was given an assurance that the hospital’s minor injuries clinic – which currently operates from 8am to 8pm – would address the needs of the population and that serious cases would be transported by ambulance to CUH.
Deputy Collins said: ‘People currently have the comfort and reassurance of knowing that if anything happened to them that Bantry General Hospital is just a short distance away. But if the hospital were to close its doors at 5pm, it would cause huge worry and anxiety, and could ultimately lead to the loss of life.
‘The people of West Cork deserve better than this,’ he said. ‘Our health system may be in disarray but we should be working to retain all the services we have at present.’
Deputy Collins said: ‘It is situations, like this, that led to me proposing a motion of no confidence in the Health Minister Simon Harris’ – a move that helped to precipitate the general election.
A spokesperson for Bantry General Hospital said: ‘Management can confirm that there are no planned changes to the urgent care centre service. The urgent care centre at Bantry General Hospital is made up of a medical assessment unit and a local injury unit with patients attending the unit that best meets their healthcare needs. Both units continue to operate seven days a week.’