ST JOHN’S has thrown its hat in the ring as a potential model 3 hospital for the region - which could see the return of a 24-hour emergency department.
And any upgrade of St John’s would ease chronic overcrowding at University Hospital Limerick in Dooradoyle, according to Cllr Cian Prendiville, who sits on the board of governors at St John’s.
While there is no absolute commitment from government to upgrade one of St John’s, Ennis or Nenagh, former Minister for Health James Reilly did pledge to “closely examine” the need for a model 3 hospital in this region. The Mid-West is unique among Ireland’s hospital groups in that it does not have this class of hospital.
Dooradoyle is a model 4 hospital, including a 24-hour emergency department (ED); St John’s is a model 2S and Ennis and Nenagh are model 2.
Fearghal Grimes, CEO of St John’s, explained the difference between the voluntary hospital in the city and the facilities in Tipperary and Clare.
“Ennis and Nenagh can only do day surgery whereas we do surgery where patients can stay overnight and up to three or four days,” he said.
General surgery, gynaecological and cardiovascular operations were among the procedures carried out at St John’s but the hospital did not conduct operations complex enough “to require the back-up of an intensive care unit post-surgery and certainly less complex than in the Regional”.
The need for a model 3 hospital - which provide 24/7 acute surgery and medicine and critical care - was highlighted by politicians in the region following the damning report by HIQA on the ED in Dooradoyle earlier this year. TDs in Clare are already pitching Ennis as the location should the government go ahead with the plans.
But St John’s would also like to be part of the discussion, Mr Grimes confirmed.
“In June, Minister Reilly had said he was considering the upgrading of one of the hospitals in the Mid-West. Following that statement, the board discussed it at the last board meeting and formally wrote to the minister looking to be formally involved in any review process for upgrading any of the hospitals,” he said.
Where St John’s once had a 24-hour ED, the reconfiguration of acute hospital services in the Mid-West means its urgent care centre now looks after less complex cases and is only open from 8am to 6pm.
Cllr Prendiville, AAA, hopes that this downgrading of St John’s can now be reversed.
“St. John’s, Ennis and Nenagh should all be put back to their previous status and the experiment in centralisation abandoned,” he stated.