By Lynda Kiernan firstname.lastname@example.org @laoisnews
Young and old Laois people united in a sea of support for Portlaoise hospital last Saturday December 3, marching in their thousands.
Sisters Mary Goggin and Jenny Cuddy were on the march, Jenny pushing a pram containing her snugly wrapped little baby Grace.
“I had my baby there seven weeks ago so I would hate for maternity services or paediatrics to go. They’re the two main things for me,” she said.
“Our dad had a cardiac arrest five years ago, only for the hospital he wouldn’t be with us today. So that’s why we’re marching, It’s important for everybody young and old, to have it in the community,” said Mary.
Noreen Doherty lives in Portlaoise, marching with her daughter Catherine.
“We are saying no. My three children were born in the hospital. It’s a much needed service, people don’t want the tiredness of having to travel all the ways up to Dublin or Tullamore, and Tullamore is a bad road too. We have a hospital, why not keep it? They have money. They just need to allocate it properly,” Noreen said.
People could die getting to another hosital she believes.
“You could be dead on the way. I’ve read in the Leinster Express where a little girl needs the A&E several times a month so no it shouldn’t close,” Noreen said.
Mountmellick Parish PriestFr Micheál Murphy was also marching.
“For the people of Laois, keeping Portlaoise hospital as a service, that’s critically important for the community and for the future around here, we can’t afford to have it downgraded or to have it closed in any capacity,” said Fr Murphy, the PRO for the Kildare Leighlin diocese.
Deirdre Moore from Camross and Emma Lynch from Portlaoise are both teachers in the town.
“It’s a massive loss if it happens, I don’t know what we are going to do, if there’s no local hospital here. For everybody, if you have an accident, going further, people are going to lose lives and that’s just the way it’s going to be,” said Deirdre.
Darragh Kennedy from Portlaoise was marching from the Mountmellick road, with fairy lights on his head but a battle on his mind.
“It’s too important a hospital to downgrade any services. It’s on two motorway networks, a rail network, a maximum security prison, burgeoning population, new school places everywhere, and they’re then trying to send us up to Tallaght or wherever else, it just doesn’t make sense.
The Portlaoise teacher is also involved in sports clubs.
““Unfortunately we need to use the hospital more than we’d like, but where would we be if it wasn’t here? It’s something worth fighting for,” he said.
“I think if the Paediatric unit goes, it’ll be Tullamore and be Mullingar and Longford,” said Ann Heffernan, an attendent in Portlaoise hospital.
“There is fierce concern, Dr Barry Ward yesterday gave us a talk in the canteen. We are very concerned for all the jobs too, you wouldn’t know what was happening. It’s shocking,” she said.
Three generations of the Meredith family marched, including Julie who works in Portlaoise hospital.
“No matter how much they extend Tullamore, they’re not going to do it enough to take everyone in Portlaoise. There’s still loads of people on trollies,” she said.
Her father Roy fears from people in south Laois.
“We need a hospital in the midlands because if we don’t have one in Portlaoise where do you go south of Portlaoise? Anyone living on the far corners of Laois heavens above where do they go?,” he said.
Laois branch of Retired Teachers members marching included Ann Collier.
“I’ve had two emergencies treated at it, I got anaphylatic shock and my son was injured in a farm accident, so definitely going to Tullamore wouldn’t have been good, or Dublin,” she said.
Sheelagh Coyle is from Mountmellick
“We want the present services in Portlaoise hospital maintained, we feel they should be considering the large population and we don’t want to be going to Tullamore, Naas or Tallaght where they are already crowded. We don’t want the maternity services to go, we want our grandchildren to be born in county Laois,” she said.
“It’s the fastest growing young population in a town in Ireland. It seems ridiculous to downgrade the hospital, there’s no sense to it,” said Ann Curtin.
TA Scully from Portlaoise was marching with his wife, son and daughter-in-law.
We don’t want it downgraded, that’s the bottom line. We are living at the crossroads of Ireland and a downgrade a hospital, the most prominent hospital on the way to the south of Ireland. It’s the busiest A&E outside of Dublin and the population of Portlaoise is ballooning, nearly to 25, 000 and when I was a kid it was 3,000. That’s an answer for you,” he said.
“It’s been great for our family over the years. My parents have been up there a good few times, and if we hadn’t been able to go up there, well you never know where we’d be,” said Sinead White from Newpark.
Driving to Tullamore or Tallaght are “not good alternatives” she said.
“Especially if it’s late at night and you can’t get people, at least you can just go up the road to the hospital and they are great up there,” she said.