The announcement that approval has been granted for a new 25 bed rehabilitation unit at Roscommon County Hospital is a very welcome development and will be of significant benefit to people recovering from serious injury and stroke throughout the midlands & west of Ireland.
It is also a welcome boost towards the long term security of Roscommon Hospital as a major employer in County Roscommon.
This announcement is a very significant development and one which cannot be underestimated because there is a growing demand for such rehabilitative services and Roscommon has the potential to become a centre of excellence for the delivery of such medical care.
Presently, it is not uncommon for people to have to wait for over a year to access rehabilitative services in Dun Laoghaire and then only receive 12 weeks intensive rehabilitation once they do get into the hospital.
What has been really frustrating up to now is that if patients can access this treatment earlier, and for far longer, they can make significant leaps forward towards making a full recovery.
The fact is that rehabilitative medicine has huge potential and has up to now been very much a forgotten aspect of our health service. There are many of us with an interest in this area who wonder if there was not as much political fall out from the closure of our A&E, would this ever have got off the drawing board?
It is now important that the staffing for the unit is secured in advance of the opening of the new building and that this this aspect is not long fingered.
Roscommon already has a strong reputation when it comes to rehabilitative medicine, with one of the most modern rehabilitative services of its kind at the Sacred Heart Hospital. The work that is going on since the establishment of the unit a number of years I believe has, in no small way, put Roscommon on the map when it comes to this project.
I recall playing a very small role in having that unit established at a time when the Western Health Board was planning to close down beds at the hospital some years ago.
We now need to see the links strengthened between the rehabilitative services at both Roscommon County & the Sacred Heart Hospitals, so that one service can support the other in providing the most modern & appropriate treatment available to patients over the coming years.
It is also important to remember that this development is likely to have a spin off for local business, because many of the patients will be from a wide catchment and will be spending a significant period of time in the unit, which will bring more visitors to our town.
The location of the unit here could, in the longer term, also lead to spin off business being established in Roscommon Town and it is up to us all to create the environment that can make this happen.
While this development is very welcome, and one which was promised to me and others back at the time of the closure of the A&E, it must be remembered that the failure to deliver on a replacement emergency service (criticised in recent correspondence by Consultant, Liam McMullen), means that more people than should be the case will have to rely on this new rehab unit for recovery.
For example, there are people who have had strokes and because of the time delay in accessing an ambulance and/or treatment in hospital now require the services that will be available at the new rehab unit at Roscommon Hospital.
So while it is great to get recovery services and planned day surgery services, all of which secure Roscommon Hospital into the long term, my problem is that what happens in an emergency?
We still don’t have enough ambulances; we still don’t have a 24/7 air ambulance; we haven’t seen the emergency services developed at Portiuncula to cater for Roscommon patients.
As Consultant Surgeon, Liam McMullen asked of Leo Varadkar last January “So are we to be thrown to the wolves?”
We are all awaiting the answer.