Minister Harris said safety comes first after the Light for Lives Rally in Portlaoise. Pic: Denis Byrne
A meeting on the future of the Laois hospital between the Minister for Health Simon Harris and the three Laois TDs has been postponed to the end of the week.
Laois TD and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan had said the meeting would take place today Wednesday, December 13. However, he confirmed to the Leinster Express on Wednesday morning that the meeting had been rescheduled to Friday, December 15.
Minister Flanagan, who opposes downgrade, has met with the Minister a number of times on the issue. Laois opposition TDs, Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley have also made written and verbal requests to the Minister for meetings since the Light for Lives protest march which was attended by several thousand people in Portlaoise. Both spoke with Minister Harris in person in Leinster House.
It is not clear if the meeting will take before or after a promised announcement by Minister Harris on what he intends to do with the third draft of downgrade plan for the hospital.
He has told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 that he intends to provide clarity by the end of 2017.
It is likely the the hospital would have to be discussed at Government with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar before a decision is reached.
Minister Harris was given the first draft of the downgrade plan in December 2016.
RTÉ's PrimeTime broadcast a feature on the hospital on Thursday, November 7. WATCH REPORT HERE
The HSE's Dublin Midland's hospital Group plan for Portlaoise envisages the removal of A&E, ICU, maternity, paediatrics and most surgery. The hospital would get a 24 hour Medical Assessment Unit and Local Injuries unit instead of A&E. The rest of the hospital's activity would be refocused on outpatients and elective work.
The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group wanted to begin implementation in January 2017. It aimed to be ready to move most services by 2022 except A&E which would be scaled back before then. The cost would be over €100 million with money spent in Portlaoise, Tallaght, Tullamore, Naas and the Coombe hospitals to facilitate downgrade.
No money has been committed to the project by the Government or the Minister for Health has the power to reject this plan.