Today, I sought the consideration of Minister for Health Simon Harris to develop a pilot project based on using Belmullet Hospital as a Multi-Health Service facility including the re-opening of the beds closed in 2010.
In light of the negative impact on rural areas of centralising and privatising healthcare in Ireland, Britain, and many other countries, the Minister should consider a proposal to provide as many health services as possible in rural and urban settings where larger hospitals are many miles away from acute and specialist hospitals.
I and Sinn Féin have long believed that a new approach is necessary to overcome the challenges met by people living away from these centres in accessing healthcare. This new approach involves maximising the use of community and district hospitals such as Belmullet.
The lack of transport, absence of a good road network, and the costs involved in accessing even the most basic services is experienced by people living in areas such as Erris must be tackled in a sustainable way. I believe the way to do this is using our local hospitals and fully developing local primary care centres.
A Multi-Health service could include a community casualty unit, diagnostic scans, and many other treatments that currently require patients to travel to Castlebar, Galway, and Dublin. The development of electronic health records and the full use of technology must be used to bring services closer to the community. This, together with an integrated patient transport policy, means that many safe and effective services can be delivered at local level and with an integrated approach to patient care.
I am now asking that the Minister gives this proposal his consideration and approve a pilot project including full cost benefit analysis in Belmullet Hospital.