Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has come out strongly in support of Health Ministers Stephen Donnelly’s declaration that no government decision has yet been taken on the HSE suggestion to close the A&E in Our Lady’s hospital in Navan.

The HSE outlined plans yesterday for a 24-hour Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) to replace the emergency department in Our Lady’s Hospital Navan.

The HSE insisted that the new MAU will still be able to see around 80% of the current number of patients who present to ED every day.

However, it has been confirmed that the planned MAU will be GP referral 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, while the proposed injury unit will be walk-in.

Donnelly said that the transition has yet to be signed off on by the Government.

However speaking to thejournal,ie Varadkar, who has worked as a doctor in the hospital in Navan has backed Donnelly’s claims.

The Journal asked Varadkar today if the Department of Health and HSE are at odds with one over the hospital.

Varadkar said there “are a lot of questions to be asked,” about whether it is wise” to close the ED in Navan.

“I worked in Navan hospital for a time, it provided a lot of good care to a lot of people particularly those with pneumonia, with minor injuries, UTIs, it provided very good care,” he said.

“I fully appreciate it is not a major specialist centre for people with major trauma who have a heart attack or a stroke, it is better that they are taken elsewhere, and that is generally done by the ambulance service.

“But I think if there are to be any changes to services at Navan, we would need a lot of assurances around the ability of the ambulance service,” he said.

Assurances would also need to be given regarding whether Drogheda or Connolly Hospital can take the additional patient load, he added.

The health minister, as well as ministers that sit at the Cabinet table from Meath, Justice Minister Helen McEntee and Minister of State Damien English, “are not satisfied with the HSE’s responses to those very straightforward and reasonable questions”, said Varadkar.

In his statement today, the health minister said “several important issues” must be addressed before any transition can take place, including ensuring people in the Navan area can still access urgent care.

He said while he accepts the concerns of clinicians in Navan over safety issues for operating a “small emergency Department”, he has also listened to clinicians at other hospitals who fear overcrowding if the transition occurs soon.

He said: “No decision regarding the HSE’s proposal for the transition of the Emergency Department at Our Lady’s Hospital Navan (OLHN) has been agreed by this government.”

The minister noted that the HSE has clinical concerns about the safety of the Emergency Department at Navan and said the HSE met with local representatives to

outline those concerns.

“I have heard clearly the concerns of clinicians in Navan as to the ongoing safety concerns of operating a small Emergency Department,” he added.

“I have also heard the concerns of clinicians at other hospitals that would be impacted at a time when all health services are under such pressure.

“Several important issues, including additional capacity in other hospitals impacted, as well as the continued ability of people in the Navan area to access emergency and urgent care, would need to be fully addressed before any proposed transition by the HSE takes place.”

To address extra patients expected in the emergency department in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, the HSE says an additional emergency ambulance, as well as an additional advanced paramedic, will be put in place