The medical board of St Luke’s Hospital has voted by a large majority in favour of being linked up with Dublin’s St James’s Hospital rather than Waterford Regional Hospital and Cork as hospital services are reorganised nationally.
When the board met on Tuesday of last week, 15 members voted in favour of linking up with St James’s Hospital, two voted in favour of linking with Waterford Regional and two abstained, according to Cllr Pat Crowley (FG), a GP.
The reorganisation of hospitals is being considered in a report that is due to be published soon by the Hospital Groups Strategic Board, which is chaired by Professor John Higgins. The process involves the creation of hospital groups followed by independent hospital trusts to manage hospitals.
Although the decision will ultimately be made by Health Minister James Reilly on the basis of the report’s recommendations, this vote is seen as a significant move by the board of the Kilkenny hospital.
“These things are not decided by hospital consultants. It will be decided by the Department of Health and the outcome of the Higgins report,” Cllr Crowley said. He added, however: “It (the vote) must be taken into account. Somebody somewhere will have to note it. It is certainly being noted in Waterford and they are not happy about it.”
People in South Kilkenny are indeed not happy about any threat to services at Waterford Regional Hospital, which have been built up in recent years.
“It was disappointing to hear that,” South Kilkenny-based Cllr Eamon Aylward (FF) said of the vote at St Luke’s.
The worry, he said, concerns not just the services available in the hospital but also the staff there, with hundreds of people based in South Kilkenny working at the hospital.
For the moment, the concerned parties will simply have to wait and see.
“What it means in the long term, we don’t know,” Cllr Crowley said.