Leo Varadkar speaking at Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise in 2015. Photo Denis Byrne.
A big crowd is expected to converge in Laois tonight to discuss how to get the message through to Leo Varadkar and his Government not to downgrade Portlaoise hospital.
The emergency meeting on Wednesday night was called in response to plans from health management in Dublin and the Midlands to downgrade Portlaoise hospital.
The downgrade plan is contained in a Dublin Midlands Hospital Group strategy that was leaked to Laois TD Brian Stanley. He claimed that health service management are due to meet on Wedesday morning to sign off on how to execute the plan to reconfigure hospitals in Dublin, Offaly, Kildare and Laois.
There has been no statement from the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group on the outcome of a meeting on what is a five year strategy.
Portlaoise Hospital Action Group chairman Noel Tuohy said that an emergency public meeting was called following consultations with fellow Hospital Action Committee members and members of the public and public representatives.
The organisers said the meeting would be apolitical and open to all members of the public on the proposed downgrading including the removal of its 24/7 A&E Department.
They said the Portlaoise hospital A&E currently deals with more than 39,000 referrals annually, more than either Naas or Tullamore, and caters for a population catchment in excess of 250,000; in close proximity to two high security prisons, two major motorways (M7 and M8), as well as mainline rail in the fastest growing town in the country.
Portlaoise Parish Priest Msgr John Bryne also backed the campaign to retain the A&E department. He feared that what is being pursued by health service management is a strategy of "death by a thousand cuts".
Central to the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group plan is to turn Portlaoise into a Category 2 hospital without any A&E. Instead management want to
The meeting will now take place in the Midland's Park Hotel, Portlaoise s Wednesday, October 25 at 8pm. It will be Chaired by Mr Peter O Neill.