A crowd of up to 10,000 people who protested against a planned downgrade of Meath’s only public hospital have been told the fight is not over.
The rally proceeded in Navan despite a recent reprieve ordered by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly against plans to downgrade the emergency department and end intensive care services at Our Lady’s Hospital.
Gardaí estimated between 7,000 to 10,000 heard frontline staff at the hospital praised by various speakers. These included: chairman of the Save Navan Hospital Group, and Aontú leader, Peadar Tóibín; Fianna Fáil Senator Shane Cassells; Sinn Féin TD Johnny Guirke; Siptu’s John Regan; and local Labour Cllr Elaine McGinty
Mr Tóibín said 30,000 people had taken to the streets on four occasions since the first rally 11 years ago.
“Under no circumstances whatsoever will the people of Meath tolerate any further closure or reduction of services at our hospital,” he said.
“Six weeks ago, the HSE told senior medics, staff and unions in Navan hospital that the A&E and ICU was to be closed and . . . we had no option but to mobilise as a campaign. The Government responded to this by providing a stay of execution for the hospital for a number of months. While this is welcome, it’s not nearly good enough. We don’t want a stay of execution; we demand the end to all threats to our hospital.”
Local GP and long-time supporter of the campaign group Dr Ruairí Hanley said that staff had saved many lives during the pandemic. He was also critical of the “head honchos” in the HSE.
“Without them [staff] we would have had patients dying on trolleys far from home, suffocating in the back of an ambulance. But thanks to our wonderful staff they survived, they lived and they returned home to their families.”
He claimed the HSE’s transformation policy was “transforming a bed in Navan into a trolley in Drogheda, transforming an ICU bed into the back of an ambulance and transforming living people into dead people in a mortuary.”
Siptu’s John Regan emphasised the need for people to united countywide as the struggle is likely to be protracted.
Sinn Féin TD Johnny Guirke said the campaign would continue to ramp up until assurances are provided on services to the people of Meath.
Senator Shane Cassells warned that “over the last 11 years there has always been a threat hanging over the hospital, but equally there has been a community resolute in opposition and saying no in defiance”.
Meanwhile, the HSE has cancelled orthopaedic and general surgery for the coming week at the hospital due to a surge in Covid-19 patients and continued acute admissions.