The emergency department (ED) at Louth County Hospital in Dundalk will no longer operate from 9am on Tuesday, June 27, the HSE has announced.
From that time, emergency services will be provided at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. However a minor injuries unit (MIU) will be available at Louth County seven days a week, from 9am until 8pm.
The MIU will treat adults and children aged 14 years and over who present with non-emergency conditions, such as sprains, strains, minor burns, minor wounds, bites, cuts and grazes.
According to the HSE, if you are unsure whether your injury should be treated in the MIU or an ED, you can call 042 9385424 or 042 9381250.
"From Tuesday all emergency and complex care for Louth will be provided in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Patients needing emergency hospital admission will be admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, or the nearest appropriate hospital. The public are reminded that routine matters are best treated by their GP," the HSE said.
The MIU at Louth County can treat suspected broken bones to the legs from knees to toes, suspected broken bones to the arms from collar bone to finger tips, all sprains and strains, facial injuries, eye injuries, minor burns and scalds, wounds, bites, cuts and grazes, including scalp lacerations, splinters and fish hooks, foreign bodies in eyes/ears/nose and minor chest injuries.
Some conditions it will not treat include pregnancy-related problems, chest pain, abdominal pain, injuries following a fall from a height or a road traffic accident and injuries to the neck, back, hips or pelvis.
The HSE has insisted that these changes to acute hospital care in Louth ‘are based on international and national evidence which indicates that acute complex healthcare, particularly for emergency medicine, surgical services and critical care services should be provided in high volume hospitals in order to maximise clinical outcomes and ensure safe services'.
It pointed out that the new arrangements have been in the planning phase for a number of years as part of the HSE's Transformation Programme. However these changes have been accelerated due to the difficulties in recruiting junior doctors to Louth.
"The HSE has been engaged in a comprehensive international recruitment campaign over the last number of months involving a range of medical recruitment agencies, however at the current time it has not been possible to fill all vacant posts in the Louth. As such these new arrangements are being put in place to ensure that patient safety and services are maintained," it said.
As part of these arrangements ambulance services for Louth County have been enhanced to include an extra 24/7 crew stationed in the area. The ambulance will bring patients to the nearest appropriate hospital e.g. Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital or Cavan General. In some extreme cases of life-threatening emergencies patients may also be taken to Daisy Hill, Newry, if that is the nearest appropriate hospital and in keeping with current agreed protocols and procedures.
"These changes to emergency services in Louth are necessary to ensure that patients can access the care that they need from appropriately trained and qualified staff. Patient safety is the only consideration in making these changes to hospital services.
"It is important that the public familiarise themselves with the new arrangements to ensure that they are accessing appropriate care in the right setting. Information in relation to the changes is being made available through adverts in media, leaflets being distributed to households in the area and on www.hse.ie as it is important that the community in Louth understand what services are offered in the MIU and how they vary from an ED," explained Doiminic O'Branagain, clinical director of the Louth/Meath Hospital Group.
Meanwhile the HSE pointed out that the new and expanded ED at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital is ‘one of the measures to ensure additional workload from Louth County Hospital can be managed'.
In the meantime, Louth County Hospital will continue to provide day surgery services, day medical services, outpatient services and minor injury services. The existing medical wards at the hospital will in the future provide rehabilitation and step-down services.
There will be an 11-bed dedicated stroke unit, in addition to general rehabilitation and beds for step-down care. Meanwhile colposcopy services for the north east have recently been centralised at Louth County Hospital following their transfer from Our Lady of Lourdes and Cavan General Hospital.
The HSE is reminding people, for emergency treatment, call 999 or 112 for ambulance services.
If you are unsure if your injury can be treated in the MIU, call 042 9385424 or 042 9381250 between 9am - 8pm.
The ED at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital can be contacted at 041 980 5798.
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