HSE CONFIRMS PLAN TO CUT HOSPITAL’S MINOR INJURIES UNIT OPENING HOURS

30 September 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

THE PROSPECT of a further cut in services at Monaghan Hospital drew ominously closer this week when it was confirmed to Cllr Brian McKenna at Monday’s meeting of the Dublin-North East Regional Health Forum that the hours of the Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan Hospital will indeed be reduced significantly.
It is understood by the Northern Standard that 1st November is the new date on which the HSE is hoping to introduce the change, and that this will see the opening hours at the MIU (previously known as the ‘Treatment Room’) reduced from 9am–9pm seven days per week to 9am–5pm on Monday to Friday, with no cover at all at the weekends.
Such a move would see the overall opening hours at the unit cut by over 50%, from 84 hours to just 40 hours per week.
It was also confirmed to the Northern Standard, by Fine Gael TD Heather Humphreys (see below), that she has received notification from Health Minister James Reilly that the MIU hours at Monaghan are to be reduced to an eight-hour, five-day, Monday to Friday service .
Deputy Humphreys stated that she was very disappointed at this development. She said she had been reassured by the Minister that it was because of current budgetary difficulties that this change was being brought about, and that this was not “reconfiguration by the back door”.
Meanwhile, her Fine Gael colleague Sean Conlan has told the Northern Standard (see page 4) that he has been pressing the Minister to find the necessary savings through an effective “manpower plan” that might involve reducing the number of managers rather than the MIU hours.
Deputy Conlon also refuted suggestions that Fine Gael representatives were not doing enough on the hospital issue, stating that he had consistently brought the proposals of the Monaghan Alliance directly to Minister Reilly, including the proposal to have a Medical Assessment Unit established at the hospital.
He also reiterated his party’s pledge to abolish the HSE altogether, stating that the sooner the Minister took direct control again, “the better for everyone”.
ANTI-FINE GAEL VOTE STRATEGY?
But Hospital Alliance chairperson Peadar McMahon told the Northern Standard last night that it was proposed at an Alliance committee meeting on Monday last that the group should advise the public in Monaghan not to vote for the Fine Gael or Labour candidates in the upcoming presidential election.
While no definite decision had been made, he said the Alliance would be considering its position on this point and might well opt to take this course of action at their meeting next week.
He pointed out that a number of committee members, including some who were strong Fine Gael supporters, had been calling for such action, given that their views were not being listened to at national level.
The bottom line was that the Alliance did not believe it was good enough for the Fine Gael TDs to be making representations or “doing their best” — they should go that extra step and threaten to resign if their views were being ignored.
“I think if I was in a position where I was a member of a party and my representations on behalf of my constituents were being consistently ignored, I would have to consider whether I was really a member of that group,” Mr McMahon said.
It was on that basis, and because the party was not listening at national level, that the Community Alliance was considering asking voters not to vote for the Fine Gael or indeed Labour candidates in the presidential election. The local action group in Roscommon was considering a similar approach, he noted.
He also challenged the HSE’s claim in its reply to Cllr McKenna on Monday (see below) that the MIU in Monaghan was being used by an average of 23 people per day, and that the hours to be cut were those during which the lowest number of people were attending. The figures that the Alliance had from its own sources were that 35 people were using the unit per day, and that one third (about 12 per day) of these were presenting during the time periods in which it was to be closed.
HUMPHREYS STATEMENT
Meanwhile, the following statement on the proposals for Monaghan Hospital was given to the Northern Standard by Deputy Humphreys:
“At the outset I want to say that I am very disappointed the hours at the Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan Hospital are being reduced to an eight-hour, five day service from Monday to Friday.
“I had a number of meetings with the Minister regarding the issue and highlighted to him that once again services were being removed from Monaghan and transferred to Cavan. I also emphasised very strongly to him that cost savings could be found in the area of administration rather than reducing front line services. He took on board the issues I raised and as a result instructed the HSE to examine other possibilities regarding cost saving measures.
“Unfortunately I received notification late on Thursday evening last from the Minister, stating that as a result of the current budgetary and financial position facing the health system, there was no alternative but to reduce the opening hours at the Minor Injuries Unit at Monaghan Hospital. The HSE had reviewed other possible options to save money and/or increase revenue, but concluded that they would not generate sufficient savings in the short term.
“The Minister also confirmed to me that this is not reconfiguration by the back door and the HSE will not be allowed use budget cuts as a reconfiguration exercise.
“He advised that his Department is currently putting together a framework for smaller hospitals, and I want to state clearly that I will continue to fight for the provision of expanded services in Monaghan Hospital.”
McKENNA MOTION
At Monday’s meeting of the Regional Health Forum, Monaghan Co Council representative Brian McKenna put forward a motion calling on the HSE, “in view of the continuing numbers of people waiting on trolleys at the A&E Unit in Cavan General Hospital, to abandon plans for the reduction in opening hours of the Minor Injuries Unit in Monaghan General Hospital and instead refer people from the A&E in Cavan to the Minor Injuries Unit in Monaghan. This would help to relieve the pressure that staff are having to work under in Cavan General Hospital.”
In response, Cllr McKenna was told: “The Minor Injury Unit (MIU) currently provides a specific service for patients with minor injuries only. Approximately 23 patients attend this unit daily.
“An analysis of patients with Minor Injuries has been conducted on the Cavan Hospital site ED and the number of patients per day with these injuries is a very small percentage of the overall patient attendance. A decision has been made to reduce the MIU at Monaghan Hospital to eight hours per day, Monday to Friday
Continued on page 4
from October 2011 [the Northern Standard has learned that the actual date is likely to be 1st November]. The new opening hours are still under discussion with key clinical staff.
“The impact of the reduction in hours of the current MIU service on the Monaghan Hospital site will not significantly impact on the ED in Cavan Hospital. Furthermore, the times proposed for reduced hours to the unit are those when the least volume of patients attend.
“It is not always feasible for patients from the Cavan Hospital ED to access the service in the MIU in Monaghan. However, this is currently offered to all minor injury patients who attend the Cavan Hospital ED. This is supported by clear signage in the ED waiting area and will continue when the new opening hours are in place.
“In the Cavan Hospital ED a designated Minor Injury Room has been developed and is functional. It is important to note that this group of patients are not impacting on the patients who are awaiting admission in ED to In-Patient beds.”

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