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Protesters against the downgrade of Navan emergency department in September. Alamy Stock Photo
ambulance diversion

Further protests planned over Navan A&E with Dublin protest not ruled out

Concerns have been raised by a number of politicians about the number of ambulances being sent to Drogheda.

TWO PROTESTS WILL take place next Monday outside Navan Hospital and Drogheda Hospital to campaign against the downgrading of the emergency department at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan.

A protest in Dublin has also not been ruled out, according to the leader of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign Meath TD Peadar Tóibín, who said “we will stop traffic in Dublin if necessary”. 

Controversy emerged during the summer when the HSE outlined plans for a 24-hour Medical Assessment Unit to replace the emergency department in Our Lady’s Hospital Navan.

The HSE insisted at the time that the new MAU would still be able to see around 80% of the current number of patients who present to ED every day.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the Government had not sanctioned the closing of the emergency department in Navan while the Taoiseach Michéal Martin said consultants in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda need more resources before patients can attend the hospital.

Eleven hospitals outside Drogheda emergency department

Since then, the focus as centred on capacity issues in Drogheda hospital with a number of politicians raising concerns about the scene outside the emergency department of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital recently when eleven ambulances couldn’t leave because there were no beds or trolleys for their patients inside.

Local politicians have also raised concerned about reports that the planned downgrade of the emergency department is due to take place on Monday, however a number of senior Government figures have said this is not the case.

Tóibín said the situation in A&E services in Louth and Meath is at a “critical level”, stating that last Saturday the Drogheda A&E “became a car park for ambulances unable to deliver patients to an overflowing emergency department”.  

“Consultants from Drogheda and Mullingar hospital have now written to the Minister for Health stating that life and health is threatened and demanding that he stop the closure of Navan A&E. Over 100 staff at Navan Hospital and GPs in Meath have signed the Save Navan Hospital Campaign petition to oppose closure of our A&E and seek the necessary investment to make it safe for patients and staff”.

He said the health minister “must get a grip of the HSE senior management” pointing to conflicting reports as to what is taking place at the hospital on Monday. 

Dublin protest not ruled out

The campaign will “ratchet up” over the next few weeks, with Tóibín stating that the crisis is such a threat to health that campaigners may even be forced to hold a protest in Dublin which would include “the stopping of traffic”.

Public Expenditure Minister Michael McGrath said this week that currently an ambulance bypass protocol is in place for patients who have suffered a stroke, heart attack or major trauma and those in need of pediatric and obstetric care.

From 12 December, the existing ambulance bypass protocols in place for Navan will be updated to address urgent patient safety matters for patients who are critically or seriously unwell, or likely to deteriorate, said McGrath.

“Contrary to some reports, the emergency department in Navan will not close this month. From 12 December, patients who are acutely ill will no longer be brought to Navan by ambulance. Instead, they will be taken to the nearest appropriate hospital, depending on their condition.

“This is an important patient safety measure and will help minimise delays in providing life-saving treatment to acutely ill patients. However, it is not the wider ambulance bypass protocol that had been suggested,” he added.

There were chaotic scenes at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda last weekend, but at the same time the HSE wants to divert more ambulances from Navan to Drogheda, Sinn Féin’s Meath TD Johnny Guirke told the Dáil this week.

“The whole thing was complete madness. Why in the name of God are we still talking about diverting people from Navan to Drogheda?” he said.

Labour Louth TD Ged Nash said it is an outrageous situation and simply cannot go ahead, stating that no additional resources have been made available for Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda to accommodate the changes. 

Minister of State at the Department of Health said a cohort of patients will bypass the emergency department at Our Lady’s Hospital Navan and be brought to the closest appropriate hospital for their needs, and the decision will be made by the National Ambulance Service teams. 

“I confirm that no decision regarding the HSE’s proposal for the transition of the emergency department at Our Lady’s Hospital Navan has been agreed by the Minister for Health. This matter remains under consideration. The Minister for Health and the Government are clear that several important issues would need to be fully addressed before any proposed transition by the HSE could be considered,” she said.

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