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11 November 2004 Edition

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"Monaghan Hospital cuts neither forgiven nor forgotten" - Ó Caoláin

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

The axing of key services in Monaghan General Hospital has been "neither forgotten nor forgiven" and the community in Monaghan "remains absolutely determined" to ensure the return of these services, according to TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. He was speaking in a Dáil debate highlighting the shortfalls in health provision in the Northeastern Health Board area.

Opening his contribution on Tuesday night, the Sinn Féin Health spokesperson told the Dáil: "I was flabbergasted by the absolute gall of Government in the amendment it tabled to this motion. That members of Government can come into this Chamber and seek to commend the Government 'for the unprecedented increase in the level of investment in health services in the northeast since 1997' challenges every truth and reality that the people of the northeast have known since 1997.

"The fight for the retention of Monaghan General Hospital did not begin today or yesterday. One should not mistake that it dates back to the 1980s, when the matter was in the hands of a previous manifestation of this Government, when the existence of the hospital was under threat.

"The threat of closure was averted through the determined campaigning of the local community at the time. In that regard, I pay tribute to the late Paddy Turley, the then editor of The Northern Standard, who played a leading part in the campaign and continued in that role almost until his recent death.

Demand never withdrawn

"While our hospital remains a vital part of our community infrastructure, it has suffered successive losses of key services. Most serious of all these is the closure of the maternity and the accident and emergency units. The axing of such vital services is neither forgotten nor forgiven. The community in Monaghan remains absolutely determined to ensure the return of these units. That demand has never been withdrawn and I re-assert it tonight.

"The motion refers to the tragic events that occurred in the Northeastern Health Board area. These include the tragic death of baby Bronagh Livingstone, whose name will forever be associated with the closure of Monaghan maternity unit. More recently, an elderly resident of Monaghan Town, Danny McCullough, who lived close to the hospital, died en route to Cavan General Hospital. A lady from Clontibret also died in an ambulance en route to the Louth hospital in Dundalk. There have been many other tragic experiences.

Maternity hospitals cannot cope

"We heard in recent days that maternity hospitals are warning they cannot cope, and may have to cap the number of admissions. What type of horrible prospect are we seeing painted before us? Even in the worst days for this economy, we never had such a situation, nor was one threatened. It is almost miraculous that a Government could so mismanage public services in this prosperous State that we cannot cope with the birth of children. It is an absolute outrage and demonstrates the folly of closing maternity units in local hospitals."

Ó Caoláin concluded by saying he was "astonished" at the contribution of the Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children. He said improvements in Monaghan promised by Minister Martin before he left the Department were already being watered down and the new Minister had made no mention of the promised CAT scan for the hospital.

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