Dismantling our health service

Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, County Meath is yet another victim of the austerity measures which the Fianna Fáil/Green Party government is inflicting on society. The hospital is suffering death by a thousand cuts.

Emergency services for children were relocated sometime ago to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, followed earlier this year by the removal of all emergency cover, and most recently the complete cessation of acute surgical services with the associated loss of beds.

The population of Meath, 170,000, now relies on the Lourdes Hospital in Louth and the James Connolly Memorial
in North Dublin for emergency and surgical cover.

The reduction in services is not confined to Meath. The North East region has already suffered service closure in the neighbouring Monaghan General and Cavan General Hospitals. The entire regional hospital service is now centred on Drogheda, in a hospital which was already creaking before taking on the additional workload.

The government and HSE claim that the rationalisation of services fits with the strategic plan of centralising specialist care in a new Regional Hospital for the North East. However, they have proceeded to cut and centralise in the absence of even selecting a location for this proposed new facility.

A strong community campaign has been built to save Navan hospital, with public rallies attracting more than 10,000 onto the streets in protest. The campaign has received cross-party support from politicians of all persuasions,
including those of Fianna Fáil who cynically seek to divert responsibility onto the bureaucrats of the HSE.

Equally cynical, Meath Fine Gael TDs have rolled in behind the campaign, conveniently overlooking the fact that their party also intends to slash public services. The reality is that only a programme of significant investment in the universal provision of healthcare can provide a future for local hospitals across the country.

This article first  appeared in LookLeft magazine Nov/Dec 2010