BANTRY General Hospital (BGH) has scope to take on additional procedures, according to Health Minister Simon Harris, who announced funding of nearly €10m for the facility.
BGH will get €5.4m for a new endoscopy unit and a further €5m for a rehabilitation unit (with physiotherapists, occupational and speech and language therapists) with construction to get under way on both in 2020.
Minister Harris said he is open to providing more procedures, including a cataract centre, at BGH adding:
‘I am very eager to visit hospitals like Bantry because I am a strong believer that there is an awful lot more we can and should be doing in our Model 2 hospitals,’ he said.
Model 2 hospitals are hospitals which cannot provide major emergency surgery or critical care. BGH was deemed a Model 2 facility as part of a hospital re-organisation in 2013.
Minister Harris added: ‘The idea that you would still have a lot of people from West Cork travelling for endoscopies, a long distance into the city of Cork, is not something we wish to stand over.
‘Rightly, my predecessors pursued a policy of centralising certain services, which needed to be centralised for good medical and clinical reasons, but that shouldn’t allow the pendulum swing so far that everything must be done in a centralised setting,’ Minister Harris said. ‘In fact government policy, and indeed I think that is the policy of all of the Oireachtas, is now Slainté Care, which is about trying to deliver as many services as possible in the community.’
The Minister said that he is well aware that the population in West Cork is very dispersed.
‘There are specific health challenges when you visit an area like West Cork,’ Minister Harris said. ‘And that’s why this hospital (BGH), right from the 1960s, has been recognised as being different in terms of being a Model 2 hospital.’
Minister Harris, while addressing the continued vacancies in a number of consultant positions, said that he was confident that BGH has a bright future.
‘We are currently recruiting to try and increase the number of consultants working in the hospital, and the deadline for applications for the fourth consultant is December 6th,’ Minister Harris said.
However, junior Health Minister Jim Daly, who was accompanying Minister Harris on his visit, said that it was not always easy to attract consultants to an area like Bantry.
‘Attracting consultants to an area like Bantry is a challenge and it will always continue to be a challenge,’ Minster Daly said. ‘This is the only rural, remote, Model 2 hospital in the entire country. This is not Mallow or Ennis, or any of your other Model 2 hospitals, this [Bantry] is very unique, very special, with its challenges, but also with its opportunities.’
Minister Harris also said that he was open to examining the possibility of providing a cataract centre at BGH, something which Independent Deputy Michael Collins has long called for.
‘If a proposal was generated here in BGH, I would certainly give it serious consideration,’ he said.
However, Minister Jim Daly said that a cataract centre would in reality require a new theatre.
‘It’s a very complex environment and it would require a new theatre as you cannot cross over into other disciplines. We don’t have these facilities in Bantry at the moment and won’t have them in the short to medium term.’