‘People will die’

Over 600 attend Hospital meeting   Pauline Scott People will die if plans to remove surgical facilities from Roscommon County Hospital proceed – that was the message from a lively public meeting on the subject of the future of the hospital held in the Abbey Hotel, Roscommon on Monday night last. At the meeting, a majority of guests indicated a willingness to vote ‘No’ in the EU Reform Treaty as a protest against plans to downgrade Roscommon County Hospital. Organisers of the meeting, Roscommon Hospital Action Committee, were overwhelmed by the numbers who turned up to attend and many people were unable to make their way into the ballroom of the hotel due to the crowd present. At the meeting anger was expressed that Deputy Michael Finneran, the county’s government TD, did not attend and organisers pointed out that as it was a public meeting, no invitations were extended in advance. Many former patients of the hospital testified to its importance and many more spoke of the lives which would be lost if the plans to remove emergency out-of-hours surgery at the hospital go ahead. Chairperson of the Hospital Action Committee, Eithne Quinn was unable to attend the meeting, but Vice Chairperson John McDermott spent the first fifty minutes of the meeting outlining exactly what is proposed for the hospital in an unsigned document sent from the HSE West headquarters to councillors last month. Mr. McDermott said that Roscommon County Hospital has never been under such threat and he asked people to refrain from any political point-scoring during the meeting and to stick to proposals about what should be done. Apologies were read from HAC Chairperson Eithne Quinn; Consultant Pat McHugh, who had left home to attend the meeting but was back in the hospital treating patients; Cllr. Eugene Murphy and Gaelscoil de hÍde staff who said that they would be late and Liam McMullen, consultant surgeon, who was attending a conference in England. The MS Society and Roscommon Golf Club were also thanked for postponing meetings which clashed with the public meeting. The role of Government policy was also outlined. Mr. McDermott said that the Hanly Report, which recommends the closing of small hospitals, is Government health policy. It is up to the Minister for Health to implement that policy. The role of the Department of Health and HSE is simply to implement policy. They have no role in devising policy. He said that the current Government, made up of Fianna Fáil, the Progressive Democrats and the Green Party, supported by Independents, is implementing the Government health policy. He said that under the new proposals, consultants and their teams, with anaesthetists, will travel to Roscommon during office hours five days a week. The travel time will probably be included in their working day, so Roscommon County Hospital will have a surgeon for four or five hours each day. The registrar which it is proposed to appoint to Roscommon County Hospital is a non-consultant hospital doctor. That registrar will only operate if the consultant surgeon was to take responsibility for the outcome. Mr. McDermott said there are grave doubts if the registrar would get insurance cover for such an arrangement. The HSE proposals compared the proposals for Roscommon and Portiuncula Hospitals to that in existence between Dundalk and Drogheda, but Mr. McDermott pointed out that there is a motorway between the two Co. Louth towns and it only takes 11 minutes to travel between the two, a vastly different story from travelling from Ballaghaderreen to Ballinasloe. He suggested appointing non-consultant hospital doctors to both hospitals who would work in both hospitals, ensuring they get the necessary mix of experience. He also pointed out that 13,000 people attend the accident and emergency department in Roscommon on an annual basis and numbers attending the medical department in the hospital were up 15 percent on the previous year. At the meeting Mayor John Kelly said that Fine Gael had tabled a question on cancer services in Sligo and Mayo. He suggested that the Government deputies from Mayo, Sligo and Roscommon should stick together and go to Brian Cowen and say that they are not happy about the removal of services and vote with Fine Gael. ‘He would have to sit up and listen and address the fact that it is the HSE that is running the health service.’ Cllr. Kelly said that if that didn’t happen that people should vote no to the EU Reform Treaty. A subsequent show of hands on the issue showed that an overwhelming majority of the people present were in favour of such a move.