Is Covid being used as an excuse for the Government to shut down health services in Mayo and other rural communities? That was the question raised in the Dáil this week by Mayo Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh.
Speaking during questions to the Health Minister, Deputy Conway-Walsh said: "It is farcical that GPs in Erris are not allowed to make direct referrals to Belmullet Hospital. Instead, patients are transported over 100 miles to Mayo University Hospital, admitted for a night, then returned to Belmullet Hospital.
"Earlier this week, an Erris GP had to send a ninety-five year old man to MUH when the elderly man could have been catharised and admitted locally to Belmullet Hospital where he would get excellent care.
"The Minister responded that the HSE must adhere to Covid-19 guidelines wherein there are no direct admissions to a district hospital in the country. Why are illogical protocols allowed to continue?
"Additionally, primary care services including X-Ray, chiropody and physiotherapy ceased in the hospital, as well as the Eye Clinic and other elderly care services.
"Belmullet District Hospital serves a population of almost 10,000 people. It was raided 10 years ago by Fianna Fail when they closed 20 of the 40 beds in spite of huge protest from the community.
"Are they now coming along to finish the job and close it altogether? The least they can do is be honest with us. It's like death by a thousand cuts.
"People in Erris are sick and tired of being fobbed off. They want investment in their hospital and essential healthcare. They want their GP's professional clinical judgements to be respected.
"We have dedicated staff in the hospital who just want to get on with the job of delivering healthcare to the community. They need to be enabled to do this for patients and to give family Carers a respite break", concluded Deputy Conway-Walsh.