2,000 protest against cuts at Ballinasloe hospital


MORE THAN 2,000 people attended a lunchtime protest at Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe yesterday warning against any possible downgrading of the service.

The lunchtime protest was organised by a local hospital action committee as well as the three unions at Portiuncula – Impact, Siptu and the INO.

The protesters held hands and marched four-deep around the hospital as they were accompanied by hospital staff, public representatives and patients.

Among those present were many patients who said their lives could have been lost if they had to travel the 40 miles to any of the Galway city hospitals. They said the downgrading of services at Portiuncula could result in the loss of lives.

In a statement, the HSE said it planned to reduce costs at Portiuncula by eliminating overtime, closing some wards and reducing theatre time. It said all hospitals in the State had to comply with the standards of the Health Information and Quality Authority.

But the HSE added it had no plans to close the hospital.

Expressing scepticism about the HSE’s stated position, local Impact official Pádraig Mulligan warned public representatives “there is no doubt that your ‘seat’ is directly linked to the future of our hospital”.

Reminding the audience that Minister for Health Mary Harney was born in Portiuncula, he said: “Portiuncula delivered you, Minister; now we need you to continue to deliver for Portiuncula.”

Recently retired paediatrician Dr Kevin Connolly said he was proud to be associated with the hospital, which had served the community so well for the past 60 years.

He called on all politicians to ensure Portiuncula would remain a centre of excellence for another 60 years.

Mayor of Ballinasloe Cllr Pat O’Sullivan accused the HSE of placing more emphasis on the “E” rather than the “H”. “Peoples’ health should come first,” he said.