The HSE has taken a significant move to reduce daily activity at one of the busiest acute hospitals in the country by transferring oncology services to a private hospital 90 kilometres away in Dublin during the Covid-19 outbreak. 

It was confirmed on Friday evening that management at the Midland Regional Hospital in Tullamore are temporarily relocating oncology and haematology services to the Hermitage Medical Clinic in Lucan.

The HSE said it is taking the move as it is actively planning to manage essential acute services through the coronavirus pandemic, taking into account the anticipated unprecedented demand on acute services.

The decision means cancer patients presently using Tullamore hospital will face a 180km round trip to the Hermitage clinic in Dublin from now on.

"This contingency planning for the Covid-19 period is based on patient safety, maintaining essential service, taking into account of the limitations of our staffing numbers and expertise," a statement from the HSE read.

"As part of our contingency planning, a decision has been taken to temporarily relocate the Oncology/Haematology services to the Hermitage Medical Clinic.

"All service users have been contacted by their medical team to ensure a safe transition of care."

Midland Regional Hospital general manager Noreen Hynes said: "The measures announced today are temporary but necessary.

"It is so important that all of us within the health service take whatever steps are possible to ensure that we appropriately manage our available resources and protect our patients and secure the continuity of care. 

"We are all committed to providing the best possible clinical care to those who need it and we believe that by taking these steps, the health system as a whole will be strengthened.

"The hospital management team would like to thank our staff and service users for responsiveness and flexibility during these unprecedented times."