A Health Service Executive report on an action plan for the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise is now likely to be ready in September.

Minister for Health Leo Varadkar told the Dáil he is committed to securing the role of the hospital within the Dublin-Midlands Hospitals Group.

Fianna Fáil's Sean Fleming said that in a recent meeting with public representatives, the minister had indicated he expected to have a report from the HSE within a few weeks.

Mr Fleming said people in the area have welcomed improvements in maternity services at the hospital as a result of the Health Information and Quality Authority inspection.

He also said the aim was to make improvements in the Emergency Department to make it safe rather than closing it down and he did not think there was permanent consultant cover in the department.

Minister Varadkar said we have to ask what does "consultant cover" mean as in some cases consultant cover is from home or not provided at weekends.

He said there was a limited number of specialists and a decision has to be made of what is acceptable.

He said one of the big struggles for the Portlaoise hospital is hiring paediatric and obstetrics consultants and if it is not possible to staff those units, are people willing to accept an inferior service on that basis?

Minister Varadkar said work is being undertaken to strengthen the hospital and to look at services that are not viable.

He said consultations are ongoing with GPs and other stakeholders and the emphasis is on getting the best outcome for patients and patient safety.