Light for Lives anti downgrade protest in Portlaoise. Pic: Denis Byrne
A protest against the downgrade of Portlaoise hospital could be staged at Trinity College Dublin this week where a plan that underpins the Laois hospital's reconfiguration will be launched.
Senior hospital managers in Dublin and the Midlands have been invited to the launch of 'Dublin Midlands Hospital Group Strategic Plan 2018-2023' according to a letter of invitation obtained by Laois TD Brian Stanley last week.
The strategy is predicated on the go-ahead by the Minister for Health Simon Harris for the implementation of a plan for Portlaoise which would see A&E, ICU, maternity, paediatrics and most surgery removed from Portlaoise. The hospital would be re-graded as a Category 2 facility.
The letter was sent on the same day as the Minister for Health Simon Harris met with Laois TDs Charlie Flanagan, Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley. While he did not rule out downgrade, he appeared to give some reassurance that there would be further consultation.
In a written statement, Thomas Timmons, the chairman of the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee (PHAC) described the Department of Health as being: “in complete meltdown and not fit for purpose”.
“The people’s representatives in Dáil Éireann appear to have been mislead and if this is the case, then serious questions need to be asked,” he said.
Secretary of the PHAC, John Hannify described the turn of events as being “beyond belief”.
“We are faced with one of two very disturbing situations. When the minister met with our three TDs, he either knew about this launch and opted to wihthold this important information from the Laois TDs or this information was witheld from him, the Minister for Health! Both situations are inconceivable.
“If this information was withheld from the Minister then we have a very grave situation and he must sack Dr. O’Reilly forthwith. If the Minister knew about the launch and failed to inform the local TDs, then he must resign”.
Committee member, Austin Stack said a senior HSE official is launching a report that the Minister has serious questions about and has yet to sign off on.
"The minister must take immediate action to cancel this launch and retake control of his Department,” he said.
Committee PRO, Eimear Holland, said the report is flawed.
"As such, it cannot be launched. If launch is not cancelled, we the Hospital Action Committee are calling upon the people of Laois and surrounding areas to stage a mass protest outside ‘Trinity’s Biomedical Sciences Institute’ on Pearse Street, on Thursday at 10am”.
She went in to said the protest would bring "Dublin to a standstill!”