Thousands in hospital protests


THOUSANDS OF people turned out to protest at the possible downgrading or closure of hospitals in Wexford and Donegal at the weekend.

Up to 4,000 people marched through Wexford on Saturday to voice their concerns that Wexford General Hospital could lose its round the clock emergency department when the Health Service Executive (HSE) reconfigures acute hospital services in the southeast.

While it was originally expected the plans for reconfiguring services in the southeast – across Wexford, Waterford, Kilkenny and South Tipperary – would be finalised at the end of last month, it’s now more likely to be September before a final report, after further consultation, is ready. However, shortages of junior doctors to safely provide services as well as efforts by the HSE to save money, are seen as possible reasons why reduced services at some smaller hospitals might be sought by the HSE even before then.

Up to 15,000 people took part in a similar protest through Clonmel last March over concerns that South Tipperary General Hospital could also lose some acute services as part of the reconfiguration of services in the southeast.

Meanwhile, over 2,500 people, many of them elderly, took part in a protest yesterday in Lifford, Co Donegal, over the possible closure of Lifford Community Hospital.

The Border town has had a hospital since 1775, but there are growing fears it will face closure following a review by the HSE of community hospital services in the northwest. The hospital provides convalescent, respite and day care services.

Following the rally, local priest Fr Edward Kilpatrick told the attendance that HSE “trimming should not include the vulnerable” and he questioned why the high-flying members of society do not seem to suffer from cutbacks.

Fine Gael TD Dinny McGinley called on the people of the area to fight to retain the hospital.