5,000 say No

Over 5,000 people took to the streets of Abbeyleix last Sunday afternoon, with one message - Save Abbeyleix Hospital.

Over 5,000 people took to the streets of Abbeyleix last Sunday afternoon, with one message - Save Abbeyleix Hospital.

But unlike the Portlaoise hospital protest earlier this summer, there was no good news for the residents and their relatives.

It was instead left up to three elderly resdents of the nursing unit to win a repreive. They won a High Court injunction which forced the HSE to temporarily halt closure.

Maureen Delaney (89), Bridget O’Neill (92) and Catherine Kelly (93) claim the decision to close the facility was made for financial reasons and without consultation with them and others affected.

They claim, under their contracts, they cannot be moved unless there is a specific clinical reason for doing so and there has been full consultation with their families and representatives.

Mr Justice Michael Peart said he was satisfied to adjourn on the grounds the situation at the unit would remain the same.

While the HSE plan to close both Shaen and Abbeyleix, a Portlaoise nurse has said that there are many patients in Portlaoise Hospital who need continuing care in facilities like those.

“Between the surgical and medical wards there could be 18 to 20 patients who need continuing care, yet the 28 beds are to close in Abbeyleix. There were 24 patients on trollies waiting on beds recently and the waiting room of the A&E was full too.

“The back door of the hospital is closed, but the front door is still open,” she said.

The Portlaoise nurse also claimed that the special care baby unit was to lose 50 per cent of the nursing staff, when a number of nurses go on maternity leave and at least five midwives are set to retire from the maternity unit, next year.

“There is no plan to replace these nurses because of the recruitment moratorium. The maternity unit is busier than ever. These all very specialised areas of nursing.”

The HSE said they were keeping the staffing situation across the Midland Regional Hospital group under review and contingency plans are under discussion as part of the service planning process.