A total of 17 hospitals across the country will see protests organised by various Hospital Campaigns this weekend, as national unrest continues to build over long waiting times and overcrowding.
Speaking to Tánaiste Mícheal Martin in the Dáil today, Cathaoirleach of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign Peadar Tóibín TD announced that there will be 17 protests outside hospitals nationwide this Saturday at 1pm.
Protests will take place in Cork University Hospital, Limerick City, Galway University Hospital, Kerry University Hospital, Mayo General Hospital, Letterkenny University Hospital, Monaghan Hospital, Sligo University Hospital, Cavan Hospital, Mullingar Hospital, Drogheda Hospital Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Naas Hospital and Wexford General Hospital.
Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, protestors will also gather at Causeway Coast Hospital, Daisy Hill Hospital, Coleraine, Newry and Craigavon Hospital. All of these protests will begin at 1pm – except for a demonstration in Limerick, where crowds will gather at 11am at City Hall, Merchant’s Quay.
Meath West TD and Cathaoirleach of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, Mr Tóibín, urged people to join in numbers, as he highlighted the crisis facing A&Es up and down the country.
“I would urge people to turn out in numbers, to bring their family and friends to this event,” he said. “One thing is for sure, one day you or a close loved one will need an A&E. The question is, will it be there for you”.
“I’d like to thank the Hospital Campaigns around the country for mobilising citizens and I would urge all of the political parties in this Dáil to mobilise their members to join these protests,” he continued.
“I know in certain areas that Unions, football clubs, civic society groups are also mobilising. I would encourage this to happen nationally. This is a cross party cross community effort”.
The TD said that hospital campaigns have seen an “unprecedented” response to requests for people to take action – adding that there is at present a sense of “deep frustration” over the damage being done to the Health Service.
“It is an unprecedented protest response from citizens who are deeply frustrated with the damage that is being done to the Health Service in this country. At some marches there will be thousands in attendance,” he said.
“In others, hundreds will turn out and many others will see dozens of ordinary citizens stand in solidarity with patients and staff who are suffering so much. Every protest will start with a minutes silence for the hundreds of people who are dying each year due to A&E overcrowding”.
Highlighting the trolley crisis, he added: “People are angry because the damage to our A&Es has not happened by accident. 120,000 people were left on trollies last year.
“In many areas the old & the sick were waiting well over 24 hours to be seen by a doctor. Overcrowding is led to 105,000 adverse incidents in 2021. That is 105,000 people who have been damaged by the health system in this country just in one year. Some people suffered damage up to and including disability or death”.
His comments come as a recent Parliamentary Question from Aontú found that the government has spent €2 billion in 5 years compensating citizens who have been damaged by the HSE.
“That’s incredible,” the TD said. “Imagine if that money had been spent on the front line in the first place. It would have saved the pain, suffering and damage that has been caused by the lack of staff in the first place”.
Mr Tóibín stressed that the responsibility for the crisis does not lie with staff, but is attributable to the fact the system is built to serve 3.5 million people – as opposed to the 5.5 million who now live in Ireland.
“The responsibility for this is not on the staff. The staff are struggling under enormous pressure to do what they can. A report written by Simon Harris when he was Minister for Health showed that there was a direct correlation between death and morbidity in hospitals and the lack of adequate staff.
“There is also a direct correlation between waiting times in A&E and morbidity and mortality. The Reason that A&Es are hammered is that the system in the south is designed for 3.5 million people not the 5.5 million that now live in the state. The reason the A&Es are overcrowded is that they have suffered years of cuts and underfunding especially after the Banking Crash,” he said.
He also highlighted the falling number of hospital beds, adding that closures of A&Es have had a direct impact on accessing timely care.
“We have 6,000 fewer hospital beds than in 2008, We have 200 too few ICU beds, We have 30% too few GPs. There are 700 missing consultants in the health system. In 15 years, the government closed 8 A&Es. I still can’t fathom how the HSE cannot join the dots between A&E overcrowding and closing 8 A&Es in 15 Years. And right in the middle of this A&E crisis the HSE is actively trying to close Navan A&E. You could not make it up,” he said.
He said that the problem extends to Northern Ireland, which is served by the National Health Service. He said the situation of a collapsed executive is one which would “be tolerated nowhere else in the world”
“The north of Ireland is being hit by three crises,” the TD said. “The total absence of an Executive when people are suffering so much is incredible. It would be tolerated nowhere else in the world.
“Indeed we have called consistently for the rules underpinning the Executive to be changed so that no party can prevent democracy again.
“Secondly SF, the DUP, the SDLP, Alliance and the UUP have signed up to the Bengoa Report which is out of date. The implementation of this report will see the closure of A&E services. Shockingly all these parties also support each Hospital Campaign that are fighting to stop Bengoa closing their services.
“But the elephant in the room is lack of funding. The £13.5billion available through the Block Grant for the funding of public services is wholly inadequate and will lead to more service closures. There needs to be devolution of fiscal powers from London to Ireland now.
“This Campaign is going nowhere,” he added, stating: “We will not give up until citizens have access to timely and safe healthcare”.