A 95-year-old Erris man was forced to make a 100 mile round trip to Mayo University Hospital because his GP was not allowed to refer him to the local hospital in Belmullet.
The situation arose because Covid-19 guidelines prevent direct admissions to district hospitals.
Deputy Rose Conway Walsh has described the protocol as “farcical” and accused the Government of using Covid as an excuse to shut down health services in rural communities.
Speaking during questions to the Health Minister, Deputy Conway Walsh said elderly patients were making the long journey to Mayo University Hospital in Castlebar, admitted for a night then returned to Belmullet Hospital.
“Earlier this week, an Erris GP had to send a ninety-five-year-old man to MUH when the elderly man could have been admitted locally to Belmullet Hospital where he would get excellent care. The Minister responded that the HSE must adhere to COVID-19 guidelines wherein there are no direct admissions to a district hospital in the country. Why are illogical protocols allowed to continue? she asked.
The Sinn Féin deputy fears that Belmullet Hospital will be closed with primary care services including X-Ray, chiropody and physiotherapy as well as the Eye Clinic and other elderly care services ceased there.
“Belmullet District Hospital serves a population of almost 10,000 people. It was raided 10 years ago by Fianna Fail when they closed 20 of the 40 beds in spite of huge protests from the community. Are they now coming along to finish the job and close it altogether? The least they can do is be honest with us. It’s like death by a thousand cuts.
“People in Erris are sick and tired of being fobbed off. They want investment in their hospital and essential healthcare. They want their GP’s professional clinical judgements to be respected. We have dedicated staff in the hospital who just want to get on with the job of delivering healthcare to the community. They need to be enabled to do this for patients and to give family Carers a respite break.”