A Mullingar man chained himself to a van outside the Midlands Regional Hospital on Wednesday in protest that he can’t access disabled driving spaces.
Cornelius Hourigan is unable to walk the extra 400 yards to the hospital entrance that he has to walk because the spaces he used to use are no longer available to him.
However the HSE says those spaces were never intended to be used for disabled parking and were “inappropriately marked”.
The bays are currently cordoned for safety reasons because of recent building works. They have not yet been brought back into use.
Local businessman and Mullingar Town Council candidate Rashid Butt, who came across Mr Hourigan on Wednesday, described his predicament as “unfair”. The extra trek is particularly difficult for the older man because he has a difficulty with one of his legs which requires regular treatment at the hospital.
He said Mr Hourigan has recently driven through plastic bollards left there and parked his car in what was a far more convenient spot for disabled drivers. However he was ”hassled” by security staff who, he said, didn’t interfere when they saw journalists and photographers at the site on Wednesday.
The HSE says security staff were unaware of any protest at the hospital.
“Mr Hourigan has a very bad leg which has contracted an infection and is oozing,” said the independent candidate. “He has to manage to get to hospital and is not able to walk the distance.”
He said he brought water to the elderly man as he was concerned he might suffer dehydration in the hot weather as he maintained his protest and refused to be moved, even for his own health and safety.
Mr Butt says the hospital’s decision is typical and he hasn’t been successful in getting answers from the administrators.
The HSE has responded to news of Mr Hourigan’s protest by emphasising that car parking facilities at the hospital have recently been upgraded and increased and now include eight designated disabled parking spaces, all of which are located in close proximity to the hospital.
In a statement to the Mullingar Advertiser, the HSE said that “the parking spaces you refer to were never used for disabled parking and had in fact, been inappropriately marked.
It says it “regrets the confusion” which has been caused and “would like to stress that the appropriate provision is in place to cater for disabled drivers.”
The HSE has also appealed to able bodied drivers, asking them to refrain from parking in disabled spaces at the hospital. A spokesperson said able drivers should be able to drop off disabled family or friends without taking up spaces designated for those with a disabled permit.