Open Letter to Kerry General Hospital Management
Posted by Alan Kelly on January 20, 2009 at 10:47 AM
Can Kerry keep 24-Hour A&E?
Dear Ms. Lynch,
I am writing to you to express my concern at certain developments within the HSE South area but to also offer support to the well-being of patients from the county Kerry area.
Firstly, I would like to thank you and your staff for the excellent treatment that many members of my family and in-laws have received down throughout the years. They have always spoken highly of Kerry General hospital and it would be my genuine hope that the doors of this hospital will always be open to the local community.
However recent developments have cast doubt over whether that will be the case in the future. Now is the time I think the people of Kerry should know just how many of the staff of the hospital are contracted for Tralee as opposed to the Cork University Hospital? In the context of what has happened in the Mid-West, it is now time for the people of Kerry to be informed of such matters.
The HSE's trend towards centralisation of A&E, acute surgery and critical care to one centre has been implemented in the North East and has just been announced for the Mid-West. In the case of the Mid-West, the HSE only came clean about their plans after I announced I would publish the Teamwork report which recommended closing the A&E centres in Ennis and Nenagh. A similar report was carried out on acute hospitals across the South and has yet to be published and it would be my hope that it be made available for public debate as soon as possible.
The central reason why I am calling for this is that it could have grave consequences for Kerry General. If the numbers in the Teamwork report from the Mid-West were applied to Kerry's population then the Kingdom's 140,000 approximate citizens would not be sufficient to sustain a full-time A&E service for Kerry General. The Teamwork authors envision a situation where a team of A&E consultants will need a critical mass of 400,000 people to maintain standards of safety. This is not a plan that either I agree with or even family doctors in the Mid-West agree with, but these are the numbers they follow. In Kerry's context, this could be disastrous.
While I fully welcome the work beginning on a new A&E unit, both Monaghan and Nenagh General Hospitals had newly built A&E units just before it was announced their services would be cut.
It is for that reason that the review of the South's A&E service must be urgently published. My fear would be that the people writing these reports only examine certain hospital statistics before establishing a vision for the future. What they fail to take into account is the unique geographical nature of the county or the particular needs people living in rural areas.
If the situation came about whereby the only A&E centre for Cork or Kerry was Cork University Hospital, a massive network of helicopters would be required to get people from many parts of Kerry to Cork. It is my hope that this situation will never come about, but I do know that it is being contemplated.
Given that Kerry is a county where the population are spread sparsely throughout the area, the hospital in Tralee is in a unique situation where A&E should be protected. The HSE are making a botched job of implementing government policy in my own community of North Tipperary, perhaps it is time to prevent this in Co. Kerry before it starts.
The experience has been to make these decisions in the dark and then going public when the road towards downgrading has already been mapped. Rather than go through months of speculation and counter-speculation, some positive and honest engagement from the HSE would bring some light on the situation.
As someone in public office, I wish to offer my support to the retention of services at Kerry General Hospital. Having spoken to all labour party councillors and candidates, they share these sentiments.
We are all dedicated to protecting the services provided so that the patients of Kerry can be dealt with in an efficient and safe manner. This is a cause that is close to my heart so I wish to state here and now that my door will always be open on this issue.
With the kindest regards,
Senator Alan Kelly