BY EMMA CONNOLLY
FEARS that a surgical consultant at Bantry General Hospital, regarded as one of the best in the country, will not be replaced when he retires this week, have been dismissed by the HSE.
The retirement of surgeon Mr Abu Ghali has sparked major uncertainty in the community amid concerns that it heralds the beginning of a downgrading of the hospital.
Bantry GP Dr Denis Cotter says his departure causes concern for the ‘surgical future of the hospital’ while Independent Deputy Michael Collins is calling for immediate clarity on the situation from the Health Minister.
The HSE insists the position will be filled – however there was no timeframe given for when this might happen.
In a statement, the HSE told The Southern Star: ‘Bantry General Hospital’s consultant surgeon has recently retired. The post has been advertised and will be filled in due course.’
It added: ‘There is one other post, senior house officer in general surgery, which has also been advertised.
‘Bantry General Hospital is not being downgraded and all procedures and services will continue.’
Procedures routinely carried out by Dr Ghali included gall bladder and hernia operations, along with investigative work including biopsies and scopes.
Patients were also referred to him from the CUH, such was his expertise.
Deputy Collins says he remains unconvinced, despite the HSE’s reassurance.
‘The loss of this expert to the people of West Cork will be immense, with serious implications for Bantry Hospital. In the past it has proven difficult to attract younger consultants to the West Cork area as they choose more urban-based hospitals, where it is perceived that it is more of a social hub with more services available to them.
‘Working in a rural-based hospital like Bantry means that they are forced to travel long distances to attend conferences, although of course we know that living in West Cork has far, far more advantages than disadvantages, and the community spirit which exists here is second to none,’ the Goleen deputy added.
The recruitment process should have started well in advance of Mr Ghali’s retirement, he said, preventing a gap in services.
‘My worry is that this is a back door way of downgrading the hospital.’
Dr Cotter added: ‘All investigative surgical work will now be referred to Cork, where patients join long waiting lists.
‘A hospital does not exist in isolation – it is the sum of many parts. You take away a major pillar, if you take away the investigative surgical unit,’ Dr Cotter said.
Cork South West Fine Gael TD and Minister of State at the Department of Health, Jim Daly, also moved to reassure the public in relation to the staffing concerns.
‘I want to be clear and confirm this position will be filled. The HSE has confirmed directly to me that they are advertising for two positions at present, a consultant surgeon and a senior house officer for the hospital,’ the deputy told The Southern Star.