Sunday, 1 March 2015

‘You can’t tell us that we are unsafe and not give us any supply of extra casualty consultants’

‘Either give us the facilities or you close us’ 

– What the Consultants told the HSE

People Editor Paul Healy 

responds to Deputy Frank Feighan 

One of many crucial, indeed frantic, meetings held between senior HSE officials and management of Roscommon County Hospital – including consultants – took place on the 12th of May 2011. The storm clouds had been gathering; the closure of Roscommon A&E was only a matter of weeks away. 

  One of the consultants from Roscommon who was present, subsequently said: 

  “We said to them that you can’t have your cake and eat it, you can’t tell us that we are unsafe and not give us any supply of extra casualty consultants and extra medical consultants. Either give us the facilities or you close us.” 

  Frank, there really is no answer to that, is there? 


On and on it goes. They’re spinning so much in Government circles over the demise of Roscommon A&E….it’s no wonder they sometimes seem a bit dazed. 

  Would it be too much to expect politicians to actually call a spade a spade? Of course it would. 

  You remember ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’ – that story from our childhood in which more and more people began to believe the Emperor actually had new clothes….just because others kept saying it. 

  The modern-day version is ‘The Consultants closed the A&E.’ Some people think enough people will believe if it’s repeated often enough. 

  I have no wish to argue in these columns with Deputy Frank Feighan, but am happy to address his letter, published in last week’s Roscommon People. 

  First, a brief recap…. 

  Before the 2011 General Election the then Fine Gael Health Spokesperson Dr. James Reilly wrote to the people of Roscommon. 

  He wrote: “I would like to confirm that Fine Gael undertakes, in accordance with the Fine Gael Policy on Local Hospitals, to retain the Emergency, Surgical, Medical and other health services at Roscommon Hospital which are present on the formation of the 31st Dail” .

  Forget the Emperor’s New Clothes – Reilly’s letter really was a fairytale. 

  Enda Kenny made the same commitment publicly and for good measure added that he was not saying those words lightly. He hasn’t been seen in Roscommon town since (personally I think a visit from him would be welcome).  

  Anyways, in February 2011, Fine Gael duly marched into Government – they, with our good wishes, we, with their crystal clear health policy  – but they promptly betrayed the people. (Labour? Just as guilty). 

  Instead of retaining the services then in place at Roscommon Hospital, the new Government closed the A&E Unit. 

  A year on, Deputy Feighan gamely battles on as the local Government TD, insisting that he has a duty to ensure that Roscommon Hospital and its staff has a long-term future. This is a smokescreen….talking about the wider hospital and its staff (about whose futures there should be no doubt) when the issue, obviously, has been the loss of A&E.  

  But times moves on and, like others, I accept that. It would be blinkered and probably soul-destroying to keep going on about the debacle of summer 2011. Better for all of us to look to the future and try even to help shape it in some tiny way. The A&E is gone, but there is a hospital to salvage, to develop even, and a future health service to shape, perhaps even a fight for emergency services still to be fought.  

  So, faithfully we monitor developments at the hospital in a twin-track approach, looking at track one with its cargo of new arrivals while trying not to focus on track two, laden as it is with the debris from the summer of 2011. 

  We welcome sleep studies experts and an endoscopy suite and positive soundings on junior doctors and quite genuinely hope that a new jigsaw is being formed and that the pieces lost from the old one might be replaced or found and maybe even have a place again one day.  

  I personally don’t doubt that the beleagured Deputy Feighan is working tirelessly to increase activity and services at Roscommon Hospital. 

  Last week however Deputy Feighan took me to task for something I’d written on the hospital the previous week. Frank, you’re well entitled to do it, but I smell smoke again….another smokescreen! 

  Yes, another favoured smokescreen of the Government when they speak of Roscommon Hospital – it’s the consultants! They just love playing the ‘consultants’ card. 

  Deputy Feighan referred to this issue last week (and actually misrepresented what I said the previous week, but that’s not important). 

  Basically, Deputy Feighan, loyal to Government and therefore an apologist for the Kenny/Reilly double act which reneged on Roscommon Hospital, is peddling the insinuation – he is not the only one to have done it – that consultants at Roscommon Hospital recommended closure of the A&E. 

  It is utterly disingenuous. 

  If you were to believe the spinners, you’d believe consultants wrote to the HSE in 2011 and demanded closure of Roscommon A&E. 

  Readers will recall that some of that management team – consultants and doctors – had pleaded in public for Roscommon Hospital to be saved.   

  But the threat to the hospital had merely grown and now the HSE had asked the management team at the hospital for a report. 

  Now, they were at the end of their tether. They delivered a report to the HSE alright; one dripping in regret that Roscommon Hospital had been under-resourced. 

  In their correspondence to the HSE, they pointed out that…. 

* They were waiting for a new consultant to be appointed. 

* With just three weeks to go to the next rotation of junior doctors, 45% of Junior Doctor posts at Roscommon remained vacant 

* There was no Anaesthetic cover when the anaesthetist was required to accompany a critically ill patient on transfer. 

* The reduction in staff from 365 to 298 since 2008 had created difficulties for the hospital in maintaining safe services. 

  And so on and so on….

  Having listed the shortcomings they faced, the management team basically told the HSE that they had no option but to recommend a change in services in view of the lack of staff and lack of resources. 

  “To ensure patient patient safety, quality of care and the quality and safety of all services provided at Roscommon County Hospital with the current staffing complement and resources available to the hospital, the Hospital Management team has no option but to suggest that…..” 

  For anyone to say the consultants recommended downgrading of Roscommon –without adding that the consultants did so only because of the consequences of under-funding and under-staffing – is utterly disingenuous and indeed mischevious. 

  The Emperor of course had no clothes at all, and this ‘implicate the consultants’ mullarkey is just as exposed. 

  The comments of the Roscommon consultant at the beginning of this article represent clear evidence that the consultants only alluded to downgrading because the hospital was short of resources and staff. (This of course could not be the fault of the new Government, but why did James Reilly make his cast-iron pre-election commitments?). 

  Anyways, I genuinely wish Deputy Feighan well with his efforts on the hospital and I know that it has been a difficult year for him and that it has taken a personal toll. 

  We would all have been better off without this debacle. What a pity Deputies Kenny and Reilly misled and betrayed the people, handled the fall-out disastrously and then failed to fix the problem. It ought not be too late but no-one is holding their breath. Present and future generations shall watch this space with a mixture of interest and weariness. 

 Issue dated: 20 JULY 2012
© Roscommon People