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Our campaign will not cease until we have the necessary investment in our A&E - Tóibín

The Speech of the Cathaoirleach of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign, Peadar Tóibín TD, in support of Navan A&E

"A dhaoine Usasile, a chiarde Ghael, mile buiochas as teacht amach innue sa slua oll mhór seo.  

Good People of Meath I want to welcome you here today in the massive numbers that have turned out. It does the heart a world of good to see such an enormous crowd of citizens, standing up for their rights here today. We the people of Meath have a long history of fighting our corner when we need to. If the HSE or the government are looking for the path of least resistance, they are looking at the wrong place when it comes to Meath.

I want to thank everyone who helped put today together. The members of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign have distributed 30,000 leaflets, collected 15,000 petitions and erected hundreds of posters. Thousands of people have been engaged with on Social Media, press statements have been published, cars with loudhailers have been broadcasting our message around the county, McGouldricks have helped us with the pa system. If I name a name I will surely leave one out so I want to thank every one that helped, we know who you are.

I want to send a special message of gratitude to staff of Navan Hospital. Its through your enormous effort that we have the quality of A&E, that have today. You have taken the burden on your shoulders of the cuts over the years. And you have produced one of the best and strongest A&Es in the country. Because of your work there are thousands of Meath people alive today. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. 

Community groups, sporting organisations, Bands, Trade Unions, Businesses, Churches, charities and Civic society groups have all mobilised for today. Today is an historic day. Its D-Day for Navan A&E. We are fighting for the most important health infrastructure we have in the county. I want to thank Portlaoise Hospital Campaign who have joined with our today. Dr Ruairí Hanley and Dr Séamus McMenimin have sent their apologies, they cannot be with us but they support the campaign 100%.

Its important that we 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.

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.

Overcrowding 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. 

I put in a Parliamentary Question to the Minister for Health recently to see what investigation had the Department of Health carried out into the cost to life and health of overcrowding and closing of A&Es. The Department of Health has never investigated the damage done by these closures.   

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 Neangh 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.

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 close our A&E. We don’t trust the HSE, They are not close our A&E. We don’t Trust the HSE, they are not close our A&E. 

I want to thank the 23 Hospital and A&E consultants in Drogheda Hospital who 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.

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. 

In the HSE plan, they have provided no safe pathway for patients in Meath. 

The HSE’s solution to the closure of our A&E is a GP referral Medical Assessment Unit. GPs are like hens teeth in Meath. I know of one patient who has received an appointment in September to see a doctor. 400 GPs have emigrated from Ireland to Australia so far this year.

No one in an emergency is going to wait 10 days for a GP appointment to then go to an MAU. They are going to go straight to Drogheda. 

Also the HSE has promised a 24 hour MAU. It cant be 24 hour, as GPs operate, 9 to 5. And they don’t work weekends. NE Doc on Call has told Our Lady’s Hospital Navan that it will not accept the care of patients who would normally have been assessed and managed in a hospital setting.

The HSE plan is detached from Reality, its 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.  

I want to introduce our speakers to you today. First up I call on Deputy Johnny Guirke who is representing Sinn Féin.  Thank you Johnny Guirke.

Secondly I would like to ask Senator Shane Cassells who will speak on behalf of Fianna Fáil. Thank you Shane.

Thirdly I would like to call on man with years experience working in the Mines and protecting workers rights, the Deputy General Secretary of SIPTU Gerry McCormack.

SIPTU has always been a major friend of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign and we thank them for all the help that they have given us.   

Fourthly I would like to call on Tracey McElhenny who will speak on behalf of the Labour Party.

Last but not least I would like to call on Noeleen O Brien. Noeleen works in the hospital and has been the voice of many of the workers. Noeleen is the Secretary of the Save Navan Hospital Campaign She has been the back bone of this campaign for 11 years.

Thank you Noeleen. Now I have made a strong effort over the years to keep this campaign cross party and cross community. But that does not mean we should not call out wrong doing by certain elected reps.

We did invite Damien English and Fine Gael to speak at this event today. They offered us no speaker. I also want to note that Thomas Byrne has in recent weeks started to actively campaign for the closure of Navan A&E. It is incredible that a Meath Minister would work against the good of the people he is supposed to represent.

James Reilly and Thomas Byrne stood on this platform 10 years ago and pledged their full support on behalf of FG and FF for Navan Hospital A&E. Indeed Damien English promised a new Regional Hospital would be built in Navan by 2016. They have simply not delivered on their word to the people of Meath and its important that that is noted. 

Before we go I want to comment on the war that is ongoing between senior HSE staff and the elected Government.  We seem to be in a political twilight zone at the moment. I have never heard a senior Public Servant such as Paul Reid openly rebuke and undermine his line Minister live on radio before.

It is stunning that one the highest paid public servants would openly brief against his Minister so publicly. The whole idea of a public servant is that they implement the will of the democratically elected Minister. What we are seeing here is an inversion of the democratic process. The democratic system is being turned upside down.

This is not the first time either. 3 weeks ago, the Minister organised a meeting between the HSE and the elected reps of Meath. The meeting was billed by the Minister as a discussion on the future of the hospital A&E and that no decision was made on the A&E.

Yet before we left the meeting the HSE had issued a statement saying that the A&E would close on the 30th of June. This statement was then retracted by the HSE shortly afterwards. At the start of this week Senior HSE management stated publicly that they were being gagged by the Minister.

Who is in charge? A Minister and a HSE CEO cannot live in direct contradiction with each other. The Minister has told the HSE to pause the closure of the A&E and the HSE have openly said that they are proceeding with it. This is dysfunctional. The Minister needs to implement democratic authority or go.

Let the message go out loud and clear to the HSE and to the government, we will not allow you make a University Hospital Limerick Mark 2 out of this region. You will not close our A&E. Our campaign will not cease until we have the necessary investment in our A&E to make it one of the safest and the best in the country. Míle buiochas gach uile dhuine."



By Aontú Press | 10 July, 2022

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