OVER TWO THOUSAND people formed a human chain around Portiuncula Hospital this afternoon in a public protest against any proposals to downgrade the services operated at the hospital.
The protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations against any downgrade, and was organised after protestors claimed the hospital was under “serious threat” from the ongoing shortage of public funds.
The 197-bed hospital, serving both south Roscommon and east Galway, is expected to run a deficit of between €5m and €7m in 2010.
The demonstrators included hospital staff and former patients as well as members of community groups and hospital staff, of which there are 650.
Staff unions told RTÉ that there was a “serious and ongoing threat” to the future viability of the hospital, with Action Committee Chairman Padraig Mulligan saying that removing €7m from the hospital’s annual funding of about €50m would have massive impact on patient care.
Protestors told Galway Bay FM that the human chain was intended to send a message to the government that they would have to deal with significant local hostility if they intended to proceeds with spending cuts at the facility.
The Health Service Executive (HSE), however, has said there is “absolutely no hidden plan” to downgrade the hospital or cut services at either Portiuncula or the neighbouring Roscommon County Hospital.
8,000 people held a demonstration on the streets in Roscommon town on Saturday in protest at what they maintained were plans to downgrade the latter hospital.