Paul Healy’s Week – 11th December

Paul Healy on heroic community resistance in Athleague as the ‘ghost of floods past’ threatens to visit again; the need to get Jeremy Kyle off the telly in the County Hospital…and an urgent call on people to use that hospital more…
Sunday evening

Athleague, 8.40 pm. It’s dark, still, almost eerily quiet. All evening there have been ominous vibes, text messages, a sense of foreboding.

Turning into the village, it’s a relief to see no actual flooding (yet), but the sight of hundreds of sandbags forming a protective embrace around private houses and businesses is deeply worrying.

Driving into the heart of Athleague, and dozens of volunteers are suddenly in view, clad in hi-viz jackets, their faces stern, worried, but determined too, a tapestry of humankind at work. Most concern is centred on the vicinity of the community centre, with fears that water will soon penetrate its defences.

The atmosphere is sombre; the sense of foreboding won’t leave. How do you stop nature? How, in particular, can you reason with rain? In the houses along Athleague’s Main Street, curtains are open, rooms are lit up; it’s as if normality is wrestling with fear. You know that the residents, tormented by the spectre of history repeating itself, are grappling for answers that are wrapped inside the mystery of the hours and days that are slowly coming

. Outside the Bridge House pub, there’s a generator, more sandbags, and locals huddled together. We turn. There are familiar faces, but it’s not a night for intrusion, not beyond a quick hello, a wave of awkward solidarity. Passing the community centre again, and in the falling darkness there are the outlines of the faces of heroes. The volunteers have been working day and night to try to stem the ghost of 2009 as it threatens to return.

Athleague is dripping in heroicism. A similar resistance is underway in other parts of the county and region. But there is something about Athleague, this homely village that was ambushed by the floods in 2009, that fought back, and that is now under threat again.

And yet you are left with a clear sense that no matter what nature does, the people are beyond being defeated. Passing the Church on the way home to Roscommon, we leave the heroes at their toil, everyone waiting for the mystery of the coming hours to reveal itself.


There I was, sitting in the Urgent Care Centre in Roscommon Hospital, and not another patient to be seen. I wasn’t in urgent care for any urgent reason, by the way.

Anyways, I was pleased to see that the Jeremy Kyle Show wasn’t on the telly, because any time I’ve been in the hospital over the years, the tiresome Kyle with his tiresome guests and his head-wrecking topics always seems to be on a telly nearby. Not very suitable viewing for patients in their beds, I’ve often thought…

Anyways, there was no sign or sound of Jeremy, but then I realised that it was some sort of a TV3 lifestyle show that was on this time, and Martin King was holding court. He was soon doing my head in. Are the HSE imposing Jeremy and Martin on hospital-users for some dark reason?

Anyways, to get to the two serious points that I want to make. Firstly, I have pleasure in reporting that the quality of care provided by staff at Roscommon County Hospital continues to be fantastic. Secondly, is this Urgent Care Centre being greviously under-used by the public? I strongly suspect that this is the case. On the occasion of one of my recent visits, I was the only person present, over a long period.

Later, I got the views of a few people, and it would be fair to say that there is some concern that low ‘throughput’ in the Urgent Care Centre is a worry and could have implications in the future. Are some GPs in the county referring, to hospitals in other counties, patients who could instead be referred to Roscommon? Are some members of the public confused about what services are available in Roscommon, and at what times, and do these people just decide to go to Ballinasloe or Galway without giving our local hospital due consideration?

The A&E may be gone – don’t worry, we’ll mention the ‘war’ again here soon – but, if anything, that makes it more important than ever to ‘use’ Roscommon Hospital. I should say that on one of my recent visits to the Urgent Care Centre there were about ten patients ahead of me. Ten patients, and one TV above us.

That was the day I sat through two episodes of Judge Judy.