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Hundreds take part in protest against plans to close emergency department at Navan hospital

Organiser Peader Toíbín has called on ‘political establishment to realise how important this issue is’.

Our Lady's Hospital Navan
Our Lady's Hospital Navan

Updated Sep 16th 2022, 4:30 PM

HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE gathered in Co Meath today to protest against the HSE proposal to close the emergency department in Navan’s Our Lady’s hospital.

The protest took place outside the HSE offices in Kells, with Campaign Cathaoirleach Peadar Tóibín TD, Senior SIPTU Official John Regan, Sinn Féin TD Darren O’Rourke, Fianna Fail Seanadóir Shane Cassells and independent Cllr Gillian Toole addressing the crowd.

Aontú’s leader Toíbín earlier said the protest would be led by a number of funeral directors “to underline the life and death consequences of this decision”.

Speaking after the rally, he said there was “palpable anger” among the protestors who gathered.

“That such a large crowd gathered in the middle of a working day in Kells shows just how important this service is to us. Our march was preceded by a number of funeral hearses to underscore the life and death issue that faces the people of Meath,” he said.

“In the middle of a A&E capacity crisis the HSE is seeking to close a busy A&E in one of the fastest growing counties in the country. Surrounding hospitals are beyond capacity. Each one of them over the summer has released a statement asking patients not to present due to overcrowding.”

The HSE has insisted that the new Medical Assessment Unit that would replace the emergency department service would still be able to facilitate around 80% of the current number of patients who present to the ED every day.

The remaining patients would be treated at Our Ladies of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

However, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly recently asked the HSE to carry out a review of capacity levels in light of a number of concerns being raised, particularly from consultants in Our Ladies of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, who said they had not been consulted about the plan.

A letter, signed by 17 consultants, stated that the “transfer of risk from an unsafe ED in Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan to an under-resourced Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda will lead to poorer clinical outcomes for patients”.

He said the HSE “refuse to even research a cost benefit analysis into a functioning and safe A&E” in Meath. They refuse to do a simple feasibility study to see what investment would be necessary to make our A&E safe. The HSE management are disconnected from the reality of the people. We have no confidence in them”.

“This campaign will continue until we have a cast iron guarantee of a properly funded A&E in Meath.

Speaking to The Journal before the rally, Tóibín said it was “incredible” that the proposed closure of the Navan A&E is taking place in the “middle of a capacity crisis”.

The HSE has insisted that the new Medical Assessment Unit that would replace the emergency department service would still be able to facilitate around 80% of the current number of patients who present to the ED every day.

The remaining patients would be treated at Our Ladies of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.

However, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly recently asked the HSE to carry out a review of capacity levels in light of a number of concerns being raised, particularly from consultants in Our Ladies of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, who said they had not been consulted about the plan.

A letter, signed by 17 consultants, stated that the “transfer of risk from an unsafe ED in Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan to an under-resourced Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda will lead to poorer clinical outcomes for patients”.

Deputy Toíbín told The Journal that this underscores how “the frontline clinicians radically disagree with senior HSE management”.

He also dismissed plans for a Medical Assessment Unit because “GPs are as rare as hen’s teeth at the moment”.

The Aontú leader recently delivered a petition that was signed by over 15,000 people to the Health Minister and said over 20,000 have marched in protests against the A&E closure over the past ten months.

He called on the “political establishment to realise how important this issue is”.

The specialists called for an independent review of what is needed in the hospital before critically ill patients are diverted to Drogheda from Navan.

James Galligan, from Meath, was among those who attended the protest this afternoon.

“I wouldn’t be standing here today only for Navan accident and emergency,” he said.

“Years ago I had a motorbike accident and I had a bleed on the brain, I was unconscious for a fortnight, and underwent emergency surgery. If I had to go anywhere else I wouldn’t be here today. I was given little chance of survival.

“Everyone wanted me moved out of Navan to go to Dublin but I was told that I was in the safest place and I am here to prove that. It’s so important for Navan A&E to stay open.

“There are so many new houses being built in the locality and it is essential to us.The feeling here is that some people say if they are going to do it, they will do it, but we have to fight it. Nothing else is gained if you do not fight for it.

“We need the A&E in Navan, and it’s crazy to downgrade it.”

Deirdre Butler, from Kells, also attended the protest today. She said the hospital in Navan saved her life.

“I got a bad dog bite years ago and I had to be operated on. I was very lucky that Navan hospital was there. If that hospital was to close I don’t know how I would have made it,” she said.

“I owe my life to them. It would be a total disaster if they closed the A&E. The other hospital won’t be able to cope. If I had to go to Drogheda hospital I would have to get a bus to Kells, up to Navan then over to Drogheda.

“There’s no transport going from here (Kells) to Drogheda.”

Additional reporting from the Press Association

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