Portlaoise hospital light for lives demonstration in November 2017.
The Minister for Health has promised he will appoint an external facilitator to oversee consultation on the future of the hospital nearly a year since plans to downgrade Portlaoise hospital first emerged.
The commitment by Simon Harris to appoint someone 'within weeks' comes months after it was announced consultation would begin.
The Minister committed to consultation last December after meeting Laois TDs following a big protest march against downgrade in Portlaoise. A HSE plan which is with the Minister proposes the removal of A&E, ICU, paediatrics, maternity and most surgery from the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise.
Minister Harris gave an update on consultation to Laois Sinn Féin TD Brian Stanley in the Dáil.
“I intend to appoint an independent external facilitator for the consultation process in the coming weeks. The outcome of the consultation process will be a submission from my Department to me as Minister, setting out the key findings from the consultation process and recommended a response to inform me in making a final decision on the draft Action Plan,’’ he said.
Deputy Stanley welcomed the renewed commitment but said the process should not be used for political reasons.
“While this announcement is very welcome, it has taken 11 months to get things moved to this stage and this has been an unnecessary delay. The Minister has confirmed that the following groups will be consulted the following groups will be consulted, Midoc, Medical Board, Portlaoise Hospital, ICGP, Portlaoise Hospital Management Team, Mental Health Group, Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee, Irish Prison Service, councillors and TDs.
“This consultation process must be expedited in a timely manner and should not be used as an exercise to drag the process to get the Government out to the far side of a general election. I intend to keep the pressure on the Minister to ensure this does not happen," he said
Laois/Offaly TD and Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan announced in July 2018 that the consultation process was underway and an external facilitator would lead a consultation team.
He said he had been assured that the required multi-annual investment in services, and infrastructural and staffing capacity, will be advanced before any decision is taken in relation to core services.
He urged the various stakeholders and interest groups to fully engage in this process.