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'Drogheda is under pressure': Taoiseach urges caution over Navan ED closure

The Taoiseach said that Covid is putting pressure on hospitals around the country.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has weighed in on the controversy surrounding the closure of the emergency department at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan. 

Speaking to reporters after Fianna Fáil’s parliamentary party in Dublin, he said consultants in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda “are saying they need space and time to consider this, they need more resources in order to facilitate reconfiguration”.

“I think the academic and medical community needs to reflect as well and ideally, the best way forward is through agreement and consultation in the northeast, between all the participants,” he added.

A letter, signed by 17 consultants, says that the “transfer of risk from an unsafe ED in Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan to an under-resourced Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda will lead to poorer clinical outcomes for patients”.

The consultants told Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly that there were 66,000 presentations to the Drogheda hospital’s emergency department last year and that it is at full capacity.

They said that a lack of planning and resourcing is a “recipe for poor patient outcomes and investment in essential critical services must be prioritised now”.

However, HSE boss Paul Reid has said the closure of the emergency department in Navan should not be about politics but about saving people’s lives.

The Chief Clinical Director of the hospital Gerry McEntee last night told RTÉ’s Prime Time that the planned closure did not begin because Minister Stephen Donnelly “overruled it”.

The board of the HSE had arranged for the closure to start from Thursday, he said. 

The Taoiseach said we can “learn lessons” from earlier reconfigurations that have taken place around the country.

“Safety is paramount,” he said, adding that given the current situation, where hospitals are feeling the “after effects of Covid” in the health system, there should be caution.

“I think we have to be careful in terms of how we move forward with configuration because we can see enormous pressures on emergency departments across the country because Covid hasn’t disappeared,” he said.

He said Covid is a particularly disruptive in our health service, stating that it is manifesting in terms of attendances at emergency department and delayed discharges because some nursing homes are not in a position to take patients in as they have had an outbreak and due to isolation protocols.

Hospitals also have isolation periods that is causing disruption, he added.

“So, Covid is still having a big impact, which has not really been factored in by people generally. They want to believe it’s gone, it’s not. And I think that is a factor in Navan as well, Drogheda is under pressure,” said the Taoiseach.

Concerns were raised about the downgrade the Emergency Department at Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan to a 24-medical assessment unit, which would require a GP referral to attend, at a public meeting last night. 

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Critically ill patients would be sent instead to other hospitals, including Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda.

The Save Navan Hospital Campaign, set up to push back against the move, is holding a protest on 9 July.

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