Local TDs have said any proposal for the closure of the A&E at either Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, or the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar will not be tolerated.
Last weekend’s Sunday Business Post revealed that a report commissioned by former Health Minister Leo Vardkar recommended that nine accident and emergency departments, including those at Portiuncula and Mullingar hospitals, be closed.
Minister Denis Naughten (FG ) said that the issue had also arisen during talks on the formation of a government.
“I made it crystal clear that I would not tolerate any proposal to downgrade the A&E at Portiuncula Hospital. I was given a specific assurance that there would be no downgrading of the A&E and I have re-iterated this to the new Minister for Health, Simon Harris,” he said.
Fianna Fáil TD for Roscommon-Galway, Eugene Murphy, said the revelation was “bizarre and unbelievable”.
“Only a few months ago the HSE gave an absolute guarantee to me and other TDs from the area that no downgrading would take place in Portiuncula. The people of Roscommon/East Galway have already lost the A&E at Roscommon University Hospital. Enough is enough,” he said.
Longford-Westmeath TDs also called for services at Mullingar hospital to be protected.
Deputy Robert Troy (FF ) said: “It’s a dangerous plan which would mean a full accident and emergency service would not be available at the hospital into the future. This will undoubtedly put lives at risk and must be resisted.”
Deputy Willie Penrose (Labour ) said the Government would never be forgiven if it closes critical A&E units.
“This assault on the public health system cannot be allowed stand and if it occurs on their watch it will never be forgotten and they will never be forgiven. Patient safety will be put at serious risk by this draconian plan to slash the number of A&Es countrywide from 29 to 20.”
However Deputy Peter Burke (FG ) said the claims were “unsubstantiated”.
“I called the Minister for Health... who confirmed to me directly that Mullingar Midlands Regional Hospital A&E is not closing, his Department have never considered it closing, and there are no plans in existence which consider its closure.
“In fact the very opposite is the case. Construction is underway to upgrade the A&E, with €5 million granted by the Government for this key project and the new A&E is due to open its doors this winter.”