Portlaoise hospital campaigners throw down gauntlet over future of A&E

Conor Ganly

Reporter:

Conor Ganly

Portlaoise hospital

Minister Charlie Flanagan TD addressing a Portlaoise hospital public meeting in 2016 watched by Dick Sydes and the late Kathleen O'Brien, the former Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee chairperson

The Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee has thrown down a political gauntlet over the future of the hospital ahead of a promised meeting with the Minister for Health Simon Harris.

A meeting is set to take place between the Minister for Health and campaigners against the downgrade of Portlaoise hospital, according to outgoing Laois TD and Minister Charlie Flanagan.

Action Group Chairman Thomas Timmons expects the meeting to happen and wants to hear a commitment from the health minister.

“We are meeting about the 24/ 7 A&E staying in Portlaoise. If we don't get a commitment that we will keep the 24 /7 service in Laois someone is going to lose their seat. It is as simple as that,” he said.

Mr Timmons added that the committee may still run a candidate in the General Election on a platform of retaining services.

As the General Election campaign gets into full swing, Minister Flanagan promised the meeting would happen.

“I expect that a delegation from the Portlaoise Hospital Action Committee will meet with the Minister for Health Simon Harris over the next few days.

“In the meantime, as Minister for Justice & Equality, I want to repeat that I am acutely aware of the importance of an active and vibrant hospital close by the Midlands and Portlaoise Prisons which can accommodate up to 1,200 prisoners. Given the very nature of prison life an emergency unit close by is essential. From a security perspective, an escorting prisoner on long journeys to other hospitals carries obvious risks.

“I have been a vocal advocate for Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise throughout my entire career as a public representative. Through the years, I am on record supporting the maintenance and increase of services at MRHP. When oncology services were centralised and relocated to Tullamore Regional Hospital, I was one of the few local representatives who opposed the move at that time. In fact, I am on record looking for further investment in a range of hospital services in MRHP.

“It should be noted that expenditure in the Hospital is at an all-time high with staff numbers of over 750 and increasing on an annual basis,” he said.