People power has been credited with the reopening of Bantry General Hospital’s acute medical assessment unit.
After 16 days of closure, a locum was appointed and the admissions unit reopened on Wednesday, August 11th.
The issue arose after one of the three existing consultant physicians at Bantry General Hospital went on sick leave for a medical procedure.
The newly appointed locum will be in place until that consultant returns to duty, which is expected to be in the second week of September.
Carole Croke, hospital manager, emphatically denied reports that there would be a reduction in opening hours from the former 8am-8pm, to a 9pm-6pm opening.
From Thursday morning, August 12th, the service would revert to being offered from 8am to 8pm, she told The Southern Star.
Fianna Fáil TD Christopher O’Sullivan said the HSE and hospital management confirmed there will be three additional consultant physicians appointed to Bantry General Hospital within the next two months.
The first, a husband and wife team, will be taking up their duties on August 23rd next. A third consulting physician has also been successfully recruited and will take up their duties in September.
Deputy O’Sullivan clarified the situation saying that one of the three new consultants will be working part-time, making it 5.5 consultants in total.
‘The complement of staff will,’ he added, ‘ensure consistent and uninterrupted service in the future at the hospital’s acute medical assessment unit.’
Protests about the manner in which the hospital was treated hit a flash point at 1pm on Sunday August 8th when several hundred people gathered at Wolfe Tone Square and then marched in protest to Bantry General Hospital, where it was the turn of the healthcare staff to come out onto the doorstep and give the crowd a round of applause.
‘It was people power that brought this across the line,’ according to Independent TD Michael Collins. ‘The HSE was adamant that the new consultant physicians wouldn’t be starting until September, but the public wasn’t having that.’
The role played by two GPs – Dr Paul O’Sullivan and Dr Laura Cullen – with the assistance of other local GPs, has also been instrumental in highlighting the issue. The GPs at the Marino Medical Centre in Bantry were most outspoken and provided a real insight into the difficulties caused by the admissions closure.
They spoke of how the closure had a knock-on-effect and put huge pressure on the SouthDoc out of hours service and how long delays in sending people for medical treatment put people’s lives at risk.
The GPs confirmed that some patients had been left waiting for three hours or longer for an ambulance to take them from Bantry to Cork University Hospital, bypassing the local hospital.
A letter that will be signed by 44 West Cork GPs is also been sent to local TDs, the head of the South South/West Hospital Group and the Taoiseach Micheál Martin calling for the future of Bantry General Hospital to be safeguarded.
The doctors at the Marino Medical Centre pointed out West Cork does not have an adequate transport system, that many of their patients are elderly and medically vulnerable and do not drive, all of which underlines the key role played by Bantry General Hospital.