PROPOSALS to link St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny with a major Dublin based medical campus are destined to change the way the hospital runs in the future.
Depending on who you talk to, the tie-in with either St Vincent’s or St James’s hospital in the capital would provide improved patient care and better services.
Others feel it will downgrade St Luke’s to a ‘band-aid’ facility with most specialist disciplines being provided in Dublin and bringing to an end decades of independence where a strict financial management system has seen the hospital, regarded as one of the best run in the country, move up the rankings.
Being associated with a university teaching hospital would be seen as a major coup for any county hospital bringing with it, especially in the case of St James’, the possibility of new thinking and modern treatments that might not always be available locally.
Others who have worked hard to place St Luke’s at the top of the hospital league table are worried at what impact the link will have on its excellent stand down facility and other innovations brought in over the last number of years that have lowered the cost of running the facility making it the envy of many others.
Already, people attached to Waterford Regional Hospital (WRH) have started a campaign to halt any possible changes which will bring it under the control of the much larger, Cork University Hospital. WRH supporters say that any change in WRH’s status will have a knock-on, detrimental impact on St Luke’s Hospital. That might be true given that patients will have to travel further for treatment already being administered perfectly well in WRH. Another worry is that medical card holders will find it difficult to access specialist care in Dublin because of transport issues.
It is understood that some consultants based in Kilkenn feel it would be excellent to be associated with a university-teaching hospital and would bring more junior doctors to St Luke’s, thereby improving the standard of care.
St Luke’s has been among the best in the country at managing patient through put and finances. If St Luke’s was linked with St James’s hospital it is feared that the St Luke’s budget would be eaten up.
The HSE press office based in Kilkenny declined to comment on the plans and said the design and establishment of hospital groups is ongoing and that it is the remit of the Strategic Board chaired by Prof. John R. Higgins and that the Department of Health is dealing with it.
However this new grouping will put paid to the plan being implemented by the HSE for the acute hospitals network of the South East including St Luke’s, WRH and Wexford general hospital and yet the HSE heirarchy have no opinion to express in public about that.
The fear in Waterford city is that WRH will be downgraded to a county hospital putting it in the same category as St Luke’s and so Waterford based medics and politicians want to resist change. When pressure came on St Luke’s last year about a proposed downgrading with reciprocal benefits for WRH, which was prevented by Environment Minister Phil Hogan, there was no support from WRH supporters.
The problem with aligning St Luke’s with St James’s Hospital has to do with numbers. At present St James’s serves a catchment area of 750,000 but with Kilkenny, Portlaoise and Naas being grouped with it, this figure would jump to over one million and the hospital has not got the capacity to cope with the extra 250,000 people in its area.
Up to now, Waterford has been regarded as safe because of its size and dominant position within the south east but a proposed link to Cork University hospital would be seen as a downgrading with a number of key specialist divisions being looked after by Cork.
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