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A&E closure in St Columcille's Hospital is a 'slap in the face' to Wicklow people

There has been a long-standing campaign to fight the closure of the emergency unit in the Loughlinstown hospital.

A protest in 2011 at St Columcille's Hospital
A protest in 2011 at St Columcille's Hospital
Image: Mark Stedman/Photocall

THE HSE CONFIRMED this week that the emergency department at St Columcille’s hospital in Loughlinstown is to close at the end of the month.

From next month, a local injuries unit will treat minor injuries such as broken bones seven days a week from 8am to 6pm. However, emergency cases will be sent to St Vincent’s hospital.

Critical service

Local Sinn Fein Councillor and chairperson of the campaign group Save of Services Wicklow (SOS Wicklow) John Brady said the A&E closure is a huge blow and a slap in the face for Wicklow people who depend on the critical service.

He said that St.Vincents hospital is already stretched to capacity, adding that “when the A&E in Loughlinstown is downgraded and people are forced to travel to St. Vincents the numbers lying on trolleys will simply increase and compound the problems experienced in that hospital, resulting in a reduction of patient care”.

He added:

We have already lost Wicklow District Hospital based on a dubious report from HIQA. What the people in Wicklow want is a properly funded hospital they can have confidence in.

Imposing the 21,000 users of the essential medical facility on the already overwhelmed St. Vincent’s Hospital simply will not work.

Public meeting

This is an issue that has been fought against for some years. In 2011, a public meeting was held by local community groups who wanted to prevent the closure of the emergency department.

Speaking at the meeting, Dún Laoghaire TD Richard Boyd Barrett said the proposal to cut the emergency service is a direct result of the EU/IMF deal who argued that the “reconfiguration” of hospitals like Roscommon and Loughlinstown was simply a euphemism for reform and cuts.

“As the government finds it more difficult to pay back these unsustainable debts there is an increased demand for privatisation. High on the list is the privatisation of the health service. There is absolutely no coincidence that as Loughlinstown is being downgraded the private Beacon Hospital has been built,” he said.

Back in 2011, when the flag was first raised that the emergency department would be closing, Wicklow councillors said they had serious concerns for members of the public that would now have to travel from outer areas of Wicklow to St Vincent’s Hospital for emergency treatment.

At a county council meeting, a real life scenario was raised by one councillor, in which it was said that if a man had a heart attack in Arklow, he will have to travel over 40 miles to St Vincent’s Hospital, which according to the AA Route Map, will take at least one hour six minutes one way.

Councillor Pat Fitzgerald said that extra distance “could be fatal”.

Councillor John Brady said he is calling on Wicklow’s five TD’s seem fight for the retention of the emergency department.

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