Minister for Health Simon Harris has confirmed that his department is examining a draft report on the future of services at the Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise.

The matter was raised in the Dáil by Sinn Féin Deputy Brian Stanley who said he and local GPs are deeply concerned about the future of hospital.

He said local GPs have been made aware of the contents of the review which they say would downgrade the hospital and they believe the plan is reckless and extreme.

Mr Stanley said hospitals in Tullamore and Naas cannot cope with their present workload and asked where would the 38,000 patients that attend Portlaoise go if the service ended?

He said it was the second busiest emergency department outside Dublin and he urged the minister not to allow the officials in the Health Service Executive to lead him by the nose.

Minister Harris said he was committed to securing and developing Portlaoise hospital within the Dublin Midlands Group but he said patient safety and outcome must come first.

He said a number of recent reports on the hospital had called for reconfiguration of some services.

He said since 2014, the focus was on supporting the development of the hospital; addressing deficiencies; and on incorporating the hospital into the structures of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.

Minister Harris said a draft plan had been produced recently by the group on clinical service delivery at the hospital and is being discussed by his department.

He said any changes would take place in a planned manner and  the work was being done to strengthen patient safety.