Part of a protest march in Abbeyleix over the closure of the Abbeyleix District Hospital.Picture: Alf Harvey.
Laois county councillors have invited the new CEO of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group to come and meet them to “lay out his cards” about the plan for Portlaoise hospital.
They are also calling on the HSE and the Department of health to put in place a plan to upgrade and extend Abbeyleix hospital, which caters for elderly patients.
Cllr James Kelly led a request to send a letter asking Trevor O’Callaghan, who has replaced Dr Susan O’Reilly as CEO over Portlaoise hospital, to come to the February council meeting and speak to them.
“He is the ex manager of Mullingar hospital, Trevor knows this area a lot more, and did great work in Mullingar,” he said, at the January council meeting.
He was seconded by Cllr Willie Aird.
The Cathaoirleach, Cllr Padraig Fleming disagreed that Mr O’Callaghan was the man to meet to save the hospital from downgrade.
“I’d be suggesting we write to the Department of Health. It’s the department doing the review. If there is any influence on this subject, it has to be brought to bear with them,” he said.
Cllr Aird strongly disagreed.
“Hold on, there’s been a change in the guard, the document she (Dr O’Reilly) signed off on is on the desk of the Minister. He said he wasn’t happy that enough consultation took place. First of all we ask Trevor O’Callaghan, he should be given the opportunity to come here and lay his cards on the table, so we can go back to the start and have 100 percent consultation,” he said.
Meanwhile the councillors also backed a motion to call for a plan for Abbeyleix hospital, by Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley.
She outlined the public campaign to save Abbeyleix from closure started back in 2011.
“The HSE had planned to close it down, then residents took them to court to stop it. Up to 5,000 protested, and we managed to put the brakes on it.
“Since then Laois has lost 30 percent of its public beds, between Mountmellick and Abbeyleix. There is no plan, no design, money invested or commitments.
“Abbeyleix is a great facility, with 20 patients at full capacity according to HQUA standards, and a daycare centre. Loads of people in Laois are in need of getting in, some are sent as far as Tipperary nursing home.
“We have had three Ministers for Health since, I am calling on this council to support a motion to contact Minister Harris, and put the pressure on the HSE, to upgrade and extend Abbeyleix to at least 50 beds, as fast as possible,” she said.
She was seconded by both Cllr Mary Sweeney and Cllr Brendan Phelan, who both urged an upgrade of facilities.