THERE are concerns for the well-being of toddlers and young children in the city after St John’s Hospital announced it could no longer treat those under five years.
From next Monday, the hospital is scrapping its daytime Accident and Emergency (A&E) unit, and replacing it with a ‘Medical Assessment Unit’ and a ‘Local Injury Unit’.
Patients, and all young children presenting to the hospital with emergency conditions will be stabilised, but ultimately redirected to the University Hospital in Dooradoyle. Fianna Fail councillor Kieran O’Hanlon fears the hospital is reducing services to his community.
Staffed by a doctor, the local injury unit will treat suspected broken bones, strains and minor injuries.
But St John’s Hospital says it will no longer treat a variety of conditions, including serious head injuries, chest and neck pain, pregnancy related problems, and fractures.
No children under five years old will be seen, and this has sparked fears among parents of youngsters, where time can often be crucial in treating conditions.
St John’s Hospital said the move is being made “as part of an ongoing programme to improve patient safety and efficiency”, adding it is “the latest in a series of service developments which are transforming the role of the hospital.”
But Cllr O’Hanlon, one of six local representatives who attended a meeting on the changes, said people in his parish feel they can no longer use the facility.
“I am totally unhappy with this. I was the only person at that meeting who was born and reared in that community. I went to the local school there, and as a child under five, I would have been in that hospital. The people of Garryowen and Janesboro have serious concerns about this,” he said.
Although St John’s Hospital have stressed that “a sick person will never be turned away”, Cllr O’Hanlon expressed concerns over whether this will be the case.
He urged management at St John’s to review the situation, and said the changes should not even be considered until the new A&E unit in Dooradoyle is running.
The new units in St John’s will open between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, excluding Bank Holidays.
The Medical Assessment Unit will see patients referred by their GP, or from Shannondoc, or Limerick Doc.
“Patients will not be seen without a referral and self-presenters will be redirected to their GP or to the Emergency department at the University Hospital, Limerick,” the hospital said in a statement.