Portlaoise hospital Light for Lives protest.
The Minister for Health has made a new pledge to consult widely on the future of Portlaoise hospital more than a year after he promised to take on public views before proceeding with a downgrade proposed by the HSE.
Minister Simon Harris first promised a Department of Health-led consultation process in December 2017. His commitment followed a big public protest against a Dublin Midland Hospital Group plan for the hospital.
He has repeated the commitment on several occasions since then. In July 2018 his cabinet colleague and Laois TD, Minister Charlie Flanagan said the process was underway.
“Having met with Minister Harris last week, the Minister confirmed that the consultation process regarding Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise is underway. An independent, external facilitator will lead the consultation team,” he said.
Asked for an update by the Leinster Express the Department of Health indicated that the process has yet to begin but no decision on the future had been made.
"No decision has been made yet on the draft Action Plan for Portlaoise Hospital. The Department is currently finalising the process for wider consultation. Minister Harris intends to appoint an independent, external facilitator in the coming weeks who will be charged with executing the consultation," he said.
Plans published or leaked in 2017 pointed to a significant downgrade of the hospital. Under the proposals, A&E would close as would ICU. Also for the chop are maternity, paediatrics and most surgery.
The HSE wants to relocate services to other hospitals, chiefly Tullamore promising investment to increase capacity to cope with the increased demand and pressure it would place on other hospitals in the midlands and Dublin.
The HSE insists that the plan has the backing of national clinical leads and was driven by patient safety needs.
In the run up the Christmas 2018 GPs in Laois hit out at the delay in consultation and the lack of a plan for the hospital.