::: As published on May 22
Fine Gael TD John Deasy says senior consultants at Ardkeen have questions to answer as to why, having spearheaded a public campaign for the retention of the South East Hospital Group, they dramatically changed tack mid-campaign and entered into negotiations that ultimately led to Waterford being linked to Cork University Hospital.
Last November, a week before they met with organisers of what became the ‘Save Waterford’ campaign, Waterford Today published a front-page story in which Deputy Deasy warned it was “time people began questioning the individuals who are responsible for representing WRH.”
He did so having arranged meetings between specialists at Ardkeen, senior HSE officials, and government TDs from the region – only to find “the performance of these senior consultants was underwhelming to say the least.
“They are the ones who needed to make the argument based on medical best practice and they failed miserably. In my opinion others from the regional hospital need to step in immediately to rescue this situation before it’s too late,” he said at the time.
Now, with the Higgins Report’s recommendations for six new groupings adopted by Government, he wants to know what prompted the consultants to do a u-turn.
“For six months the emphasis was on keeping the South East Hospital Group together, with the priorities being patient safety and the future of Waterford Regional Hospital. We had reached agreement politically for that to happen. But for some reason the consultants in Ardkeen decided after six months of campaigning that it wasn’t the best option.
“They need to explain why not, particularly given that the agreement reached to keep the South East Hospital Group together incorporated almost every element of the deal finally reached with regard to Cork,” Mr Deasy said.
The senior consultants at WRH involved in the negotiations with the region's other hospitals are scapegoating politicians for their lack of success in critical negotiations concerning the status of the Regional Hospital.
As the most vocal public supporter of maintaining the regional hospital's status, I believe people who work at the regional hospital need to understand the background to the current situation and begin legitimately questioning the individuals who are responsible for representing WRH.
I have arranged meetings in the past with these senior consultants from Waterford along with the CEO and senior officials from the HSE and government TDs from the region. The performance of these senior consultants was under whelming to say the least. They are the ones who needed to make the argument based on medical best practice and they did not perform. In my opinion others from the regional hospital need to step in immediately to rescue this situation before its too late.
I would contend that the general issue of Waterford Regional Hospital and the South East hospital grouping is not as simple as it might seem. Some of the other consultants and hospitals within the South East Hospital group are leaning towards leaving the existing structure and creating partnerships with hospitals in Dublin where university hospital facilities are available.
That is their choice if the Hospital Trust structure goes ahead. The senior consultants at WRH have lost the debate with Kilkenny and may be losing the debate with Wexford.
I and the other Waterford TDs were heavily criticised for not attending a meeting last week about the future of Waterford Regional Hospital. I've never actually experienced anything like it in my political career. I had texted, emailed and spoken to some of the senior consultants in question and informed them that I wasn't available to attend the meeting. They accepted my apologies but for some reason that information was not passed on to the meeting or on local radio the following day.
In my opinion, politicians are being scapegoated due to the lack of success in these negotiations. I think Waterford has been outmanoeuvred in discussions and the blame for that has been shifted in our direction.
I have a record of the emails and texts communications I had with senior consultants at Waterford Regional Hospital where I indicated formally the reason for my non-attendance at the hospital meeting last week and the efforts I was making with Government Officials.
I will continue to do my job and I will continue to do what I can to maintain the status of Waterford Regional Hospital as the regional base, but I won’t be scapegoated because the talks being carried on with other hospitals around the South East aren't going very well.