The HSE’s confirmation that Roscommon County Hospital’s emergency department will no longer operate on a 24-hour basis has led to strong local protests.
Local GPs have released a press statement claiming that they were appalled by the proposed downgrading of the hospital and expressing concern over the effect that it will have on patient care and safety. “We are in no doubt that lives will be lost and patient outcomes will be adversely affected”, it said.
Within hours of this announcement, a public meeting was called which was attended by about 2,000. The decision to downgrade this hospital is particularly galling to locals as it runs contrary to promises made by Fine Gael during their general election campaign.
Two weeks before the election the now Health Minister Dr. James Reilly, published a letter addressed to “the people of Roscommon” in local newspapers where he promised to retain the emergency services in Roscommon “in line with Fine Gael policy”.
A copy of this letter was circulated at the public meeting. In addition to this, he also wrote to the HSE in advance of polling day, saying it should not withdraw any service from the hospital until after the election because if he was re-elected and got the health ministry, he wanted to review the changes which were proposed.
Local Fine Gael TDs claimed that they had campaigned in good faith on the basis of assurances given to them by Reilly. Despite this they were jeered and accused of winning votes on false pretenses.
About 13,000 patients a year attend the hospital’s emergency department. The removal of this facility will not only mean that these people will have to travel unsafe distances to be treated elsewhere but also that an increased burden will be placed on surrounding hospitals, many of which are already overstretched and facing similar cutbacks.
Residents of neighboring Sligo have reacted with similar fury to Fine Gael’s u-turn on an election promise to restore cancer services within 100 days of getting into government.
The Save Our Cancer Services campaign group has called on Oireachtas members to resign in line with commitments given during the election campaign. This would include Labour TDs, who promised to provide a ninth “centre of excellence” for the Sligo area.