Denis Naughten has called on the Minister for Health and the Saolta Hospital Group to expand the services currently available at Roscommon Hospital to cater for more patients who need to see a doctor urgently.
“Things have gone so bad in many of the major A&E departments that patients, particularly older people, are postponing getting medical treatment until their GP is available the next morning or after the weekend,” stated Denis Naughten.
“There is no doubt that people are getting sicker and spending longer in hospital as a result, because of the delay in accessing a doctor.
“This situation could be eased if the emergency services at Roscommon Hospital were developed to the same extent as at Bantry Hospital, another small hospital in County Cork. There the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) is available Monday to Friday without a GP referral and accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with an out of hours GP referral.”
The MAU can treat chest pain (suspected heart attack), suspected stroke, respiratory (breathing) conditions, fever, seizures and headaches, and suspected illnesses such as pneumonia or chest infections.
“When I’ve taken this up with Government in the past the argument has been made that Bantry is isolated so that is why it has these additional services, but the fact is Bantry Hospital is nearer to Cork University Hospital than Roscommon is to Galway University Hospital,” outlined Denis Naughten.
“But even if we look to Mallow General Hospital, another small hospital in County Cork, its Medical Assessment Unit is open 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm. Like Roscommon this unit only accepts referrals from the GP or the out of hours service like WestDoc.
“While the investment that has taken place at Roscommon Hospital is welcome and positive for the future of staffing numbers in the hospital, the problem to date has been that the focus has been on what hospital group management and the Minister want and not what people need.
“The question for many local people is what happens if I’m breathless; have chest pain (suspected heart attack); a suspect stroke or a blackout? In two of the hospitals which lost their A&E after Roscommon closed, they can still avail of the service of their local hospital out of hours, so why can’t we have the same?
“The Medical Assessment Unit at Roscommon Hospital provides rapid assessment, diagnosis and early treatment based on patients’ needs, and can provide more appropriate and timely care for medically ill patients. Is this not far better for the patient than sitting on a chair for a weekend in A&E?
“Does the proper use of Roscommon not take additional pressure off the other local A&E Departments so they can treat patients who cannot be treated in Roscommon?” asked Denis Naughten.