THE future of Bantry General Hospital and the ambulance service in West Cork needs to be safeguarded during the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s according to Deputy Michael Collins (Ind), who said he was fearful that routing ambulance crews directly to Cork could undermine West Cork’s vital healthcare service if politicians, and the public, are not vigilant.
The TD also called on the HSE not to delay the appointment of an anaesthetist so that Bantry General Hospital could retain its skill set and range of services.
He said he was fearful that, during the pandemic, ambulance crews were being directed to Cork for all manner of procedures that could easily have been dealt with in Bantry.
Deputy Collins, who brought a no confidence motion in Health Minister Simon Harris earlier this year, said: ‘It was on the eve of the general election that I raised concerns that Bantry General Hospital was at imminent risk of being downgraded.
‘At the time, GPs were invited to a meeting to consider using an emergency pack, provided by the HSE, to treat patients who would then be taken to hospital in Cork by ambulance.
‘Such a proposal would completely bypass Bantry General Hospital and, in time, cause the erosion of the hospital’s services because it would put the onus on GPs and paramedics to carry out emergency, life-saving services.
‘Technically, it would have resulted in the closure of Bantry General Hospital for accidents and emergencies after 5pm because the vast majority of casualties would have been routed by ambulance to Cork.’
‘During the pandemic,’ Deputy Collins said, ‘we cannot take our eye off the ball. I have heard constituents voicing their concerns that people are being taken to Cork for health issues that should be dealt with at Bantry General Hospital.’
The TD claimed that without the appointment of a full-time anaesthetist, the hospital would automatically be downgraded because a range of services could not, under those circumstances, be provided.
‘This, for me, is a red line issue and any government that requires my support will need to give me an iron-clad commitment that Bantry General Hospital will not be downgraded.’
Cllr Declan Hurley (Ind), who is the chair of the Friends of Bantry General Hospital, added: ‘We need to be vigilant to protect our health services, here in West Cork, but the good news is that the €14.5m capital project to construct a state-of-the-art endoscopy and stroke unit at Bantry Hospital is going ahead.’
A spokesperson for South/South West Hospital Group issued a statement saying: ‘There are no plans by the HSE to downgrade Bantry General Hospital. The group has no further comment on this matter.’