End of Emergency Services in Nenagh is all too familiar

In Blog by Denis Naughten

From today, emergency calls to the Ambulance Service which traditionally went to Nenagh General Hospital will be diverted to Limerick as the HSE has shut down their 12hr A&E service and replace it with an injury unit. Having already lost their 24 hour A&E in April 2009, this decision by the HSE is the final blow to emergency care in North Tipperary. A situation which is all too familiar to the people of County Roscommon.

However, there are differences between the closure of the A&Es in Nenagh and Roscommon; the Nenagh closure comes after three years of a gradual withdrawal of services, Roscommon was virtually overnight. In the intervening three and a half years, the effect of the withdrawal of emergency services from Nenagh could be assessed. In January 2010 nurses from the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick protested the failings of the hospital to cope with the overflow of patients arriving due to the downgrading of the emergency departments in Nenagh and Ennis, without the incremental approach, this overflow would have doubled. 

So, regardless of one’s opinion on the closure itself, taking the time to measure the consequence the closure may just be the only thing that was done right. In Roscommon, we never had that opportunity. Our services were slashed after it was claimed HIQA had concerns over the safety of Roscommon County Hospital Accident & Emergency Department. However, this has been called into question time and again by everyone from the doctors working on the ground, to a renowned cardiologist.

The fact of the matter is Roscommon is unique, both in terms of how its closure would impact the local community, and in how that closure was handled. From a medical perspective, we are geographically isolated to an extent matched by very few parts of the country, so the complete cessation of emergency services has disproportionate effect when compared to gradual removal of services from Nenagh.

This is not to say that the people of Tipperary should be any less upset about the removal of services, instead it is a reminder as to how brutal a cut the removal of our A&E was to the people of Roscommon.

And the consequences are stories like that of the tragic death of young Elaine Curley.