Independent Senator and European Election candidate Rónán Mullen has warned against any further erosion of healthcare services to people in East Galway and surrounding areas.
Senator Mullen met with hospital consultants in Ballinasloe last week and also spoke with HSE Head of Community and Primary care services Catherine Cunningham to express his concerns.
In particular, Senator Mullen spoke with Consultant Obstetrician Dr John Monaghan of Portiuncula Hospital to discuss reports that the maternity unit might be under threat.
Senator Mullen said:
“Births have not fallen in Portiuncula,” Senator Mullen said. “Portiuncula is a linchpin in provision of maternity services to women across Galway and surrounding areas and serves its wide catchment area very well. The unit has been in operation since 1943 and has an excellent reputation with almost 2,000 babies born there annually. If the maternity unit closed, patients would have to travel as far as Portlaoise, Mullingar or Galway City for care. This would not be acceptable.”
Dr Monaghan, who has delivered thousands of babies in Portiuncula, added that he would be ‘extremely disappointed’ to see any downgrading of the maternity unit. “I think I can speak on behalf of all of my obstetric colleagues when I say that we are very proud of the standard of care offered to pregnant women and their babies here in Portiuncula. Any removal of services would be a significant loss to women in East Galway, Roscommon and the surrounding areas.”
Senator Mullen also visited St Brigid’s hospital where he was briefed by Consultant Psychiatrist Dr Margaret O’Grady on the controversial closure of the recently-refurbished 22 bed unit in the hospital. Senator Mullen noted that building works were still ongoing and expressed concern at the waste of money and loss of services involved. “I met with HSE Head of Community and Primary care services, Catherine Cunningham and heard her argument that the money spent will save the building for other care services. But I hope the HSE will not just consider the economic factors without considering the human cost and the quality of services that are being discontinued. While a focus on community care is of utmost importance, there will always be a need for acute services.”
Dr O’Grady said, “This closure is unlike any other closure we have seen in psychiatric services in this country. From now on East Galway patients will have to be admitted 40 miles further away from all other acute medical services, to Roscommon, as opposed to being admitted to St. Brigid’s, which is a stone’s throw from Portiuncula and its acute services.”
Senator Mullen expressed concern that in these days where economic pressures have put extraordinary pressure on people, people need services close to home and should not have to face the stress of travelling further away with the extra anxiety and hardship involved. “On the one hand we have a huge push for mental health awareness and suicide prevention and now we are going to be asking patients who are suffering to travel miles from their home for treatment. It makes no sense.”