Plans are at an advanced stage for a new hospital grouping that would see University Hospital Waterford’s relationship with University College Cork come to an end, with a new union with University College Dublin formed in its place.
The Waterford News & Star has learned that the new grouping, which would bring all of the South East hospitals together, has been met with resistance by both UCC and UCD, who have been lobbying against it for the past number of weeks.
The changes form part of a plan, which was announced last year by Minister for Health Simon Harris to merge existing hospital groups with Community Healthcare Organisations (CHOs) whilst simultaneously aligning the groups in a ‘geographical manner’.
Proposals outlined to the Waterford News & Star show six new Hospital Groups/CHOs, which include a new grouping that would include St. Vincent’s Hospital and University Hospital Waterford, under the academic guidance of UCD.
Speaking to the Waterford News & Star, both Dr Rob Landers, consultant at UHW, and Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane, expressed “serious fears” about the new group.
UHW consultant Rob Landers told the Waterford News & Star that this would be a “very negative move” for UHW.
“There’s no connection whatsoever between St. Vincent’s/UCD and Waterford,” Dr Landers said. “Historically, culturally, or in medical politics circles. St. Vincent’s is similar in size to UHW but there’s a huge disparity between the two in terms of funding and staffing levels. St. Vincent’s are not going to divest some of the capital and staff down to Waterford to bring our hospital up to standard and will more than likely just take what they can from the south east, whilst treating UHW like any other hospital in their remit.”
Dr Landers said that ultimately this new group would be a “regressive step for Waterford and the South East”.
“We would be hoping that UCC step up to the plate now and fight to keep UHW under their remit,” Dr Landers said. “We were promised five professorships from UCC – two of which have been appointed and greatly improved moral at the hospital – and three more are outstanding, as well as an €8m-€10m campus which has also been pledged. The relationship between hospital and Academic Partner is established now and the last thing that UHW needs is to be is the only cancer centre in the country without a really strong and committed Academic Partner. It’s a real relationship we need – not a virtual one.”
Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane told the Waterford News & Star that these discussions were now at an advanced stage “without any consultation with either the hospital or politicians”.
“There’s huge uncertainty about these groupings but we have to make sure that UHW doesn’t regress into a county hospital,” Deputy Cullinane said. “We need a strong university hospital with a strong link to an academic partner providing academic posts, research and development grants and all of the investments that we were promised by UCC, which unfortunately haven’t come to fruition just yet.
“University Hospital Waterford is a level 4 Regional Hospital as is a strong teaching hospital. It was promised a lot as part of the academic relationship with UCC. The stark reality is that promises were not matched with delivery. The academic teaching posts and research funding promised as part of the Higgins’ Report needs to be delivered. There is a huge risk to further restructuring and UHW being forced into an unwanted marriage with UCD. Acute hospital services in Waterford and the South East cannot be used as an adjutant to hospitals in Cork or Dublin.”
The Waterford News & Star contacted the HSE for a response, but none was provided at the time of going to print.