WATCH: ‘People will die’ – thousands demand action at Save Navan Hospital protest

'Lives endangered'

Thousands have today protested the proposed downgrading of the emergency department in Navan Hospital – a move critics say would endanger patients and reduce options for those needing urgent medical attention.

Peadar Tóibín TD told the protesters today that senior doctors had written to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in the last 10 days “outlining that the HSE decision to close our A&E would be a threat to the health and lives of the people of Meath.”

The HSE’s plans to reconfigure the A&E in Navan has met with persistent and widespread opposition, and thousands turned out today to voice their opposition to the move.

Local TD, Peadar Tóibín, is Chair of the Save Navan Hospital campaign. He told the crowd that it was important to “set out the context of what’s happening to our Health service.”

“We live at a time of record A&E overcrowding. It’s the middle of summer yet over 600 people are regularly languishing on hospital trollies in this country. Patients are waiting 24 hours for A&Es such as Tallaght. Drogheda is hammered with patients waiting more than 12 hours on average. The staff in Connolly Hospital were out on a picket to protest against Hospital overcrowding,” he said.

“The Mater and Mullingar hospitals have in recent weeks told patients not to come near them such was the overcrowding that they were experiencing. Even in Navan, Orthopaedic treatments and elective surgery had to be cancelled last winter due to the overcrowding in the A&E. According to the Irish Association of Emergency Medicine up to 350 people die each year due to hospital overcrowding. Overcrowding is a threat to health and life and we the people of Meath are not going to accept it.”

He said that overcrowding in Irish hospitals “has not happened by accident”.

“In the last 20 years we have gone from 20,000 beds to 14,000 beds. The HSE has closed a phenomenal 6,000 beds. The HSE stated 5 years ago that we need 500 ICU beds yet today we have only 300. Indeed, ICU beds are the front line against Covid and yet in the middle of another significant Covid wave the HSE are looking to close ICU beds in Navan. You couldn’t make it up,” the Aontú leader said.

“HIQA has carried out one inspection on the basis of overcrowding. It recently inspected University Hospital Limerick. It found that that hospital is like a war zone and why because the HSE closed Nenagh and Ennis A&E without providing additional capacity in Limerick.”

“We also have record hospital waiting Lists. There are 908,000 patients on public hospital waiting lists. A 100,000 of these are children. Many of these people are suffering and their conditions are getting worse. When they eventually get treatment, the treatment will have to be more invasive and more expensive. Every time a Hospital is overcrowded the work on these waiting lists is stopped and staff are diverted to deal with the overcrowding,” he continued.

“So I would like to send a strong message to Paul Reid, Colm Henry and Gerry McEntee today. We don’t trust the HSE. They are not going to close our A&E.”

The Meath West TD said that 23 Hospital and A&E consultants in Drogheda Hospital had “penned letters to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly in the last 10 days outlining that the HSE decision to close our A&E would be a threat to the health and lives of the people of Meath.”

“They blew the HSE claim out of the water that only 5 patients a day would end up in Drogheda Hospital. Their figures, taken directly from the Hospital Data system show that there would be up to 47 extra patients waiting in Drogheda from Navan every day,” he said.

“They stated that closing Navan A&E does not fix the risk. It simply shifts the risk to Drogheda. Shutting Navan A&E does not make the system safer it simply transfers the location of risk to Drogheda.”

“The HSE says there is a risk to health because there is no acute surgery services in Navan. But remember this, it was the HSE that closed the acute Surgery services in Navan. The Peyton report published afterwards stated that there was no justifiable safety reason to close that service.   “

“The solution to any risk in our A&E is to restore Acute Surgery Services. That has been a key demand for the Save Navan Hospital campaign for 10 years,” he said.

The Aontú leader said that the HSE plan was “detached from reality” and “divorced from the experiences of people in terms of GP Shortages. Paul Reid is paid €411,000 a year. It seems to me that the more HSE management are paid the less they know about the lives of real people.”

Speakers from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil also addressed the rally, but Thomas Byrne of Fianna Fáil was strongly criticised for “actively campaigning against the Save Navan Hospital initiative”, organisers said. Fine Gael offered no speaker to the protest.

Tipperary Councillor Séamie Morris said that the closure of Navan A&E would be a mistake – and claimed that similar actions in Tipperary cost 200 lives.

“We went though this in Tipp, We told the HSE reconfiguration wouldn’t work now 200 lost lives, 13 years of human suffering later the Health Minister has admitted it isn’t working . Don’t let your Hospital be downgraded,” he tweeted.

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