FERMOY AND MITCHELSTOWN WILL SUFFER
“The message from the HSE to the people of North Cork is clear: don’t get sick,” Cork East TD Sean Sherlock declared at a press conference on the ongoing cutbacks at Mallow General Hospital this Wednesday, before warning the Government that the people of the region will “take to the streets” within weeks unless the demands from two hospital groups are met.
The Friends of Mallow Hospital and the Mallow Hospital Action committee, of which Deputy Sherlock is secretary, joined forces with doctors from both Mallow Hospital and North Cork practices in The Hibernian Hotel, Mallow to up their campaign in an attempt to stop what has been described as the “institutional bullying” and stealth withdrawal of services from the hospital.
It was further claimed that the overburdening of the available resources has far reaching effects for the North Cork region, including Fermoy and Mitchelstown.
Local GP Dr Tom O’Callaghan, representing GPs from Mitchelstown and Fermoy, warned that the current issues surrounding the hospital have serious implications for the region. One of the issues at the centre of the dispute is a CT scanner, bought and installed in the hospital in 2006 at a cost of €1.5 million, which has yet to carry out a single scan as a qualified radiographer has still to be appointed to operate the equipment.
The implications of this current scenario means that should a doctor refer a patient to Mallow, that patient, two ambulance crew members and a nurse are dispatched to Cork University Hospital (CUH) to have the CT scan done. This in turn leaves the hospital short one ambulance for approximately three hours the panel claimed, adding that on average five such trips are made per day.
It was estimated, based on figures supplied four years ago, that such a practice costs Mallow General Hospital upwards of €150,000 per year in comparison with a top radiographer’s annual salary which would be in the region of €70,000 . This, Dr. O’Callaghan added, could have significant repercussions on the Fermoy-Mitchelstown area.
“Services are already stretched to the limit in all areas,” Dr O’Callaghan told assembled media in Mallow, “should we need an ambulance in Mitchelstown or Fermoy we have one on standby in Fermoy. However, should that be in use we look to Mallow Hospital. If the ambulances there are all in use we may have to look as far afield as Kanturk”.
Dr O’Callaghan pointed out that with both towns on the main Cork – Dublin road, there is a strong possibility of serious traffic accidents which would see the need for immediate emergency responses. This, he said, is a simple scenario of the potential dangers in the current situation.
“This is a very serious issue,” he concluded, “Any diminution in Mallow services applies a lot of pressure. The extra effect is not only felt in Mallow but right across North Cork”.
CUH have written to Mallow General Hospital claiming that the referrals for CT examinations for out patients from Mallow General Hospital causes a general increase in workload of 9% annually, adding that “it is no longer possible to continue to accept referrals.”
The other issues which has led to both hospital groups expressing a vote of no confidence in the current management of the hospital include the loss of a third surgical consultant post. The group claim that, with only two surgical consultants, Mallow hospital is running against advice issued by the Senate of the College of Surgeons that no surgeon should safely work in a rota of less than 1:3.
“What this means is that by European standards the current setup in Mallow is actually illegal,” Deputy Sherlock explained to The Avondhu, “simply put two surgeons cannot ensure 24-7 care in a hospital, a minimum of 3 is needed for that”.
This will see more patients referred to CUH, and more pressure exerted on the already overstretched city hospital’s resources, directly putting lives at risk, the groups maintained. Furthermore the groups are demanding that an in-house and impartial management system be put in place in Mallow General Hospital, that a local board of management representing all stakeholders be restored and that development plans for the hospital be implemented.
Deputy Sherlock, who has described the current set up as “another Monaghan waiting to happen”, has warned that should the HSE fail to appoint a third surgeon and ensure that the CT scanner is operational immediately, the groups will take their protest to the streets within weeks.
"If we fail to retain three surgeons in Mallow General Hospital we are setting a dangerous precedent for the people of this region which has a population of over 100,000 people,” Deputy Sherlock added.
Over 100 GPs from the North Cork region have signed a petition sent to Minister for Health Mary Harney and CEO of the Health Service Executive Professor Brendan Drumm outlining their dissatisfaction with the current changes at Mallow General Hospital.
Thursday 10th April 6:34pm