Simon Harris 'intervened' to halt A&E downgrade strategy launch - claims Portlaoise hospital campaign

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

 Simon Harris 'intervened ' to halt A&E downgrade strategy launch - claims Portlaoise hospital campaign

Light for Lives hospital protest in Portlaoise. Pic Denis Byrne

Intervention by Minister for Health Simon Harris forced the HSE to cancel the launch of a strategy that includes A&E downgrade at Portlaoise hospital group, according to hospital campaigners in Laois.

The Dublin Midlands Hospital Group (DMHG) Strategy Plan (2018-2023) launch was scheduled to take place at Trinity Bio-medical Sciences Institute this Thursday.

While the HSE claim the launch was postponed, the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee Committee insists it was canceled on foot of pressure. John Hanniffy is the committee's secretary. In a statement, he said Laois TD and Minister Charlie Flanagan has confirmed that the launch was officially cancelled

"This occurred following his meeting with Minister Simon Harris this morning. We would like to thank Minister Flanagan for his support and input on this occasion. Whilst we would be surprised if a minister for health didn’t intervene, we do believe that Charlie Flanagan advocated strongly on our behalf. We are grateful for this.

"We would like to thank Minister Harris for intervening on such an important issue. We would have lost complete faith in our government if he had allowed this to happen.

"We are also very grateful for our other TDs Brian Stanley and Sean Fleming who have been extremely opposed to this launch going ahead and have been vocal about their concerns over the process to date. We should acknowledge that without Brian Stanley coming forward with the leaked reports, invitations etc., we would be very much in the dark. This knowledge empowered us and allowed us to act," he said.

Chairman, Thomas Timmons praised the public for putting pressure on

“We would like to thank the people of Laois and surrounding areas who have stepped up yet again, showing that activism is an effective and democratic responsibility. They have been busy plaguing the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Institute with calls highlighting their role in hosting such an undemocratic event.

"Countless people contacted the DMHG also. People have been extremely active on social media spreading the word. We are proud of our people because they make the difference. They made the noise and on this occasion, they were heard loud and clear,” he said.


Eimear Holland committee PRO said the calling off of the launch was important.

“This was an important decision but there is much work to do. That we had to fight to prevent such an undemocratic event from taking place says a lot. Community work should not be about preventing the agencies who are supposed to work to protect us, from doing us harm.

"We are pleased that the right decision was made on this occasion. However, this entire façade is just another example of how this report and strategy has failed to follow democratic processes and shows contempt for both leadership and for the people," she said.

She said the Minister to reject the plan.

"We call on Minister Harris to do the right thing once more and to reject this entire process, the plan and the strategy. Hit re-sit and do this properly,” she concluded.

A copy of the strategy leaked to Laois TD Brian Stanley in October stated: “We will develop a 24/7 GP referred medical assessment unit and a 12/7 local injuries unit in the MRH Portlaoise in line with national clinical care programmes models of care.”

 The DMHG has declined to comment if this had been deleted from the draft strategy. It insisted the strategy is not linked to the reconfiguration plan which runs to over 160 pages. It proposes the removal of A&E, ICU, maternity, paediatrics and most surgery. 

Before calling of the launch, the DMHG said the plan 'is not related to the proposed action plan for Portlaoise'. It accepted that this remains under consideration by the Minister for Health for any future policy decision.

The DMHG said the Group’s strategy is “independent of Government” - as is the case with all hospitals/Groups.