The public protest rally to save Abbeyleix District Hospital in 2012.Picture: Alf Harvey.
A new round of consultation on the future of Abbeyleix hospital must involved the public, a senior Laois councillor has demanded.
Cllr John Joe Fleming made the call after the HSE announced that it is to commence a new project to secure the future of Abbeyleix Hospital. They have said they will consult stakeholders which obviously means the medical staff and the other staff in the hospital, patients and their families.
Cllr Fennelly, a Portlaoise Municipal District councillor, was involved in the campaign to halt HSE closure ordered in 2011. A High Court judge blocked the shut down over a lack of consultation.
"It is essential that there be consultation with local people in relation to the future of Abbeyleix Community Hospital. However, it is also important that people who are involved in the campaign to save Abbeyleix Hospital be fully involved in this process.
"I am pleased that recently the HSE have decided that some patients can transfer from Portlaoise Hospital on a step down basis to Abbeyleix Hospital until such a time they are well enough to move home. This is a welcome development and I would hope that down the road people will be able to stay in Abbeyleix on a long term basis under the Fair Deal Scheme," said the Fianna Fáil councillor.
A substantial plan was submitted by the Abbeyleix & District Hospital Action Committee in 2012 after the HSE agreed to consultation. The proposal for a 50 to 80 bed unit was not adopted by the HSE.
The hospital has a capacity for just 20 patients. There are now just two long stay patients as a result of a ban on such patients imposed by the HSE. A similar ban on admissions from Portlaoise and Tullamore hospitals was halted in January during the trolley crisis.
Since then the HSE has met with the committee and made a commitment in writing to develop the Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit as a community hospital for Laois. The HSE said intends to develop the hospital for short-term and step down/step up care.
The Department of Health is also carrying out consultation with stakeholders on the future of the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise on the back of a HSE plan to remove, A&E, maternity, paediatrics, ICU and most surgery.