HAS the long-awaited consultation process regarding the future of Portlaoise hospital begun?
According to local TD and minister for justice Charlie Flanagan it has.
Last Friday, he released a press statement saying at a meeting with minister Harris last week that “the minister confirmed the consultation process regarding the hospital is underway and that an independent, external facilitator will lead the consultation team”.
However, Seán Fleming TD disputes minister Flanagan’s assertion.
Deputy Fleming said: “Last Tuesday, 24 July, on the Dáil record, minister Harris confirmed to me in writing that he was currently giving consideration to a process for wider consultation, yet we have the local minister saying the minister for health told him the previous week that the consultation process was underway. These statements flatly contradict each other and they are damaging to the future of services in Portlaoise hospital.”
He said that the matter can be clarified if minister Harris announces who is leading the consultation process, when they were appointed and to publish the terms of reference of the consultation process.
While welcoming minister Flanagan’s announcement, Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee’s chairperson Tommy Timmons said: “This is the first we have heard of this.”
The committee’s secretary John Hanniffy said: “I’ve since spoken to the consultants and GPs with whom we are in constant contact and they were not aware either – nor have they been contacted by anyone carrying out a review.”
Committee PRO Eimear Holland said: “We are eager to know what the terms of reference are. The committee is also eager to identify who these unelected officials and clinical leads are and, indeed, who the independent, external facilitator will be.”
Mr Hanniffy stated that the committee’s own consultation process was nearing completion and a report would be released shortly.
He said: “This report sheds significant light on the growing need for Portlaoise hospital to maintain its services and, indeed, enhance and expand them. We are at the final consultation phase now, where we plan to bring it to the people of Laois and surrounding areas, facilitating them to have some input into their future vision for the hospital.
“We look forward to presenting this report to minister Harris and, indeed, the independent, external facilitator for their consideration.”