Part of a protest march in Abbeyleix over the closure of the Abbeyleix District Hospital.Picture: Alf Harvey.
Some eight years after the HSE tried to close Abbeyleix Hospital, a 'positive start' has been reported to a new process that involves health managment aimed developing the Laois facilitiy.
Dr John Madden is an Abbeyleix GP and medical director of the Community Nursing Unit. He was also to the fore in fighting the closure in 2011. He was among those who met with the HSE on May 4.
"We had a very good meeting with representatives from the various HSE Departments who were enthusiastic and committed to the further development of the Community Nursing Unit in Abbeyleix. The Friends of the Hospital and also the Hospital Action Committee were also represented. A plan of campaign has been drawn up and further meetings are planned," said Dr Madden.
He added that various subcommittees were established to look at particular issues and these will meet separately before a plenary session again end June.
"All in all very positive. Still a long road ahead but it appears to be a good start," said Dr Madden.
The HSE also commented on the meeting.
"The Project Development team has had one meeting to date where a number of actions were agreed upon for the next scheduled meeting on 29th June 2018 including the requirement for a population needs assessment and the involvement of stakeholders to participate in sub-group work
"The sub-groups are currently in the process of being established to progress with discussions which will inform the actions," said a statement.
The HSE declined to Leinster Express request for an interview with managment involved to discuss the process and long term role for the unit.
"As there has been only an initial meeting of this group the HSE is not in a position to provide any further information at this time," said a spokersperson.
Thousands of people marched to protest closure at two big demonstrations in 2011. A number of elderly patients also brought the HSE to the High Court to halt closure. A High Court judge ruled that the HSE must carry out consultantion before closure.
This resulted in a campaigners for the hospital drawing up detailed expansion plans for the facilitiy.
The HSE refused all referrals from hospitals between 2011 and 2018. Referrals resumed because of the trolley crisis. It also brought an end to long stay patients being admitted to the hospital. In 2011 there were 50 long stay elderly residents - now there are just two. The hospital also caters for 16 respite patients. The approved HIQA capacity is 20 patients.