Campaigners mount protest to keep health services in southeast

Mon, Dec 10, 2012, 00:00

Activists desperate to retain hospital services in the southeast took their fight into the Christmas season at the weekend.

Armed with nothing more than candles, glow-sticks, torches and the odd twinkling fairy light, more than 1,000 protesters turned out on Saturday evening for a vigil of light at Waterford Regional Hospital to protect health facilities in the region.

Their demonstration came amid ongoing speculation that the southeast hospital network may be broken up by the Coalition with, many fear, a consequent loss in services from Waterford to Cork and Dublin.

The vigil was organised by the Save Waterford lobby group, which drew up to 15,000 people on to the streets of the city for a protest last month.

“Nothing is certain at the moment,” said Save Waterford co-founder Gillian Corcoran. “There’s an expert report after going to Minister [for Health] Reilly and we just want to be sure that the southeast hospital network will be left alone.”

Concerns have been raised about Waterford Regional Hospital losing its status as one of the Republic’s eight centres of excellence for cancer care and other services in the event of it being aligned with Cork University Hospital.

It is also understood that the report, written by a group chaired by Prof John Higgins of UCC, recommends the general hospitals in Wexford and Kilkenny being paired with teaching hospitals in Dublin.

However, the report is up for consideration by the Minister and his Cabinet colleagues. No decision has yet been made.

One protester on Saturday evening was John Grant from Cathal Brugha Street in Waterford. He was unable to walk with the others because of his medical condition but keen to back the cause. “I only left here a couple of weeks ago,” he said of the hospital. “I spent three weeks there and five weeks in St Patrick’s hospital. I have to use a frame to walk, that’s why I’m sitting down here,” he said.

Gillian Corcoran, who “met” Save Waterford co-founder Andrea Gagley on Facebook before last month’s protest march, said organisers were “thrilled” with the turnout. “People wanted to say, ‘we’re still here and not happy with the situation with the hospital’.”