A personal guarantee from the Minister for Health that there are no plans to take away maternity services from South Tipperary General Hospital will be warmly welcomed in the area.
Minister Leo Varadkar spent last Thursday afternoon with the staff of the Clonmel hospital and took care to listen to them, hear their concerns and what they are proud of, as he toured the facilities in the company of new hospital general manager Grace Rothwell.
Speaking during his visit, Minister Varadkar said that while he couldn’t make promises for perpetuity, if there were changes in medical practice, he could reassure hospital staff and local families that there are no plans to take the maternity services away from Clonmel.
He said that while the maternity unit in South Tipp General Hospital is small by Irish standards, it’s not by European standards and is one of the best staffed units in the country.
Minister Varadkar admitted that the unit does have some weaknesses, having spoken to the staff there and learning that they depend on locum consultants, he said these issues are all “doable things.”
The low-key visit last Thursday was described by the Minister as “a look around” having been invited down to Clonmel by Minister of State Tom Hayes. He said it was great to get out around the country to see what hospitals are doing.
As he toured the hospital Minister Varadkar met with staff in the Acute Medical Assessment Unit; the Bed Management Office; Coronary Care where it was explained to him by Dr Hajid that some work had been carried out during phase one of the hospital development but they still need planned works in phase two which has not yet been given the go-ahead. In the paediatric ward, Ward Manager Olivia Butler told the Minister of the fundraising the staff of the unit have done themselves, raising over €150,000 and how they plan to put a garden outside for the young patients.
In the Emergency Department, clinical nurse manager Mairead Vaughan told Minister Varadkar about developments there and in the Surgical Day Ward he met and spoke to consultants Paud O’Regan and Peter Murchan. Ms Rothwell pointed out to him the planned site for the CT unit.
The visit also included a private meeting with the hospital consultants and later in the afternoon Minister Varadkar met with the Save our Acute Hospital Committee including Deputy Seamus Healy and local councillors, who explained to him the importance of the ‘category three’ status of STGH.
Minister of State Tom Hayes, who helped to organise the visit, said afterwards that he was very pleased with the assurances given for the future of the maternity department of the hospital. He said it was heartening for all that work there and broader community.
Minister Hayes said he was happy to have brought Minister Varadkar down to Clonmel to see first hand the good work being done in the hospital and to talk about investment in the hospital into the future. He is now working to secure that investment and the phase two works.
On his visit to Clonmel Minister Varadkar also said he was pleased with the uptake of the free GP scheme for children under six, which had been slow to see GPs register in South Tipperary. He said he understood that changes in healthcare always cause controversy but that it not a reason not to do it. This was the right thing to do, he said.