Frank Feighan ‘vindicated’ as new €5.5m unit opens at Roscommon hospital

‘I do not think enough people were willing to stand up and be counted,’ says former TD

Former Fine Gael Frank Feighan: Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Former Fine Gael Frank Feighan: Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

Fine Gael senator Frank Feighan said on Wednesday he felt vindicated as Health Minister Simon Harris officially opened a new €5.5 million endoscopy unit at Roscommon University Hospital – and announced funding for the planning and design of a new €7.85 million Medical Rehab unit at the hospital.

Mr Feighan, who has said he suffered five years of vilification following his stand on the closure of the local A&E, said he believed “dozens of lives have been saved” following the new regime.

He said Roscommon hospital now had a secure future, with two state-of-the-art units to be based there.

The former TD said the last five years had been difficult years. Following the government decision to close the A&E, a lot of people had “lost the run of themselves. I do not think enough people were willing to stand up and be counted. I know deep down that the right decision was made. Maybe it was not articulated in the best possible way, but the right decisions were made.”

He said he was aware from Hiqa and from some consultants who had written a letter saying they could not stand over safety of patients, that the decision was correct. “I am delighted that my position has been vindicated, and I believe there are dozens and dozens of people who are alive today because of decisions that were made in the heat of a nasty campaign. Communications Minister Denis Naughten who lost the Fine Gael whip in 2011 after voting agains the closure of the Roscommon Emergency department, was also at the official opening. He said the opening of the endoscopy unit was “fabulous news”, but the issue of access in the case of non-planned care needed to be addressed.

Asked whether he still supported the campaign to re-open the A&E, Mr Naughten said the reality was that 15 new consultants would be needed in Roscommon “and that is not feasible in the short term”.

He said the planned Rehab unit had been temporarily shelved last year, but he had insisted during the talks on government formation that it had to be sanctioned.

A handful of protesters picketed outside the hospital on Wednesday, calling for the restoration of the emergency department.

Roscommon man Bill Cunningham (78) who has protested outside the hospital every Saturday for five years said he believed it would eventually be restored. Peter Brandon said he was there to highlight the treachery of five years ago and to let the government know that it was still on the agenda.

Throughout the opening ceremony, Senator Feighan was praised by a number of speakers – including Elaine Prendergast, the hospital general manager, Dr Liam McMullen, a consultant surgeon, and by the Minister for Health – for his role in pushing for the endoscopy unit.

The Minister said he was now being told that a shortage of car parking spaces was a key concern, because the hospital has become so busy.