NEWS FOCUS Make your voice heard, says clinical director

NO DECISIONS have yet been taken about changes to acute hospital services in the south-east, Dr. Colm Quigley assured people attending Monday night's meeting.

The clinical director of Wexford General Hospital, who is project leader of the south east hospitals reconfiguration group, said he could not outline what the future holds for Wexford because there are no plans yet.

'I can tell you straight up that no decisions have been made. The report is not due to be completed until the end of April.'

But a show of support by Wexford people for the existing services in the hospital would be helpful, he told the attendance.

Dr Quigley described Wexford General as a 'good hospital' which was in the top five performers in the country over the past six years, based on Department of Health and HSE guidelines, and second best in Ireland in the past two years. But financial cuts and staffing problems have brought the hospital to 'the edge of safety', he said. 'We are trying to provide the best service we can with the minimum of staff. We are at the edge of safety with staffing in our hospital,' he said, adding that over the past three years, the hospital budget had been cut by a total of €10.8 million. He didn't want to have patients on trolleys in corridors but the hospi

tal had to close wards simply to give the people of Wexford a continuing service.

A ward will be closed for three months during the summer, to enable staff to take annual leave. A recruitment embargo means that no extra staff can be taken on.

The hospital is short three doctors on its surgical team. It has the money to employ them but can't get the vacancies filled as Irish graduates are going abroad and Indian and Pakistani doctors on whom Wexford relied are opting for the UK.

These were some of the challenges even before getting down to discussing the issue of reconfiguration.

'We're not worse off than other hospitals but we have to fight very hard', said Dr. Quigley.

According to the clinical director, the priority for Wexford was to ensure the continuation of a 24-hour A&E unit. 'That is our aim. I hope we can achieve that. We're certainly planning to do that.'

'Into the future, you will need to make your voices heard,' said Dr. Quigley, who thanked the people of Wexford for the 'tremendous support' the hospital has

received,

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