The issue of upcoming changes to St Columcille’s Emergency Department is of huge concern to many in Wicklow, and people’s worries have been exacerbated by the HSE’s dire record of communicating their plans for the hospital. I recently met with the HSE on this issue, along with the other TDs for Wicklow & East Carlow, and thought it worthwhile relating the substance of this meeting here. These are the key points the HSE made, as I understood them:

1. The total healthcare budget for acute medicine between the three sites is due to remain the same or rise as a result of the new configuration.

2. No changes will be made to Emergency Department at St Columcille’s until capacity has been increased at St. Vincent’s. (€600,000 has been earmarked for work on the two departments.)

3. Efforts are being made to increase the capability and capacity of the ambulance services. (For example, advanced paramedics are currently being trained.)

4. The reconfiguration will only go ahead with the agreement of the clinical communities across the sites.

5. The total clinical activity at St Columcille’s will either stay the same or increase.

6. The reconfigured sites will comply with the new HIQA requirements for patient safety. (They currently do not.)

7. Once the draft proposals have been okay’d by the Minister, there will be a consultation process which will include, but not be limited to, patient groups, the public, the staff at the three sites and public representatives. (Critically, the HSE confirmed that changes to the proposals, once they take place within the national guidelines for level 2 hospitals, will be possible, based on feedback from the consultation process.)

The HSE team stressed that the point of the reconfiguration is to provide a better level of healthcare provision to the people of Wicklow, East Carlow and South Dublin, with people being treated in the most appropriate setting.

If they deliver on the promises above, the plan for hospital services in the area will have a higher budget, will have the support of the clinical communities across the three sites, and of the national clinical programme leads for emergency medicine and acute medicine, and will comply with HIQA guidelines. This will make for a marked improvement in healthcare provision for the people of Wicklow and East Carlow.

I will continue to focus on this urgent issue, pressing for evidence of progress and for proper communications by the HSE, and working to ensure that they do deliver on these promises.

As soon as a draft proposal is released by the HSE, I will interrogate it thoroughly to ensure that it does represent a significant improvement in health services for the people of Wicklow.