Hundreds of people have gathered in Co Meath to protest against the HSE proposal to close the emergency department in Navan’s Our Lady’s hospital.
The HSE plans to change the hospital to a “model 2” facility, which will see the intensive care unit and small emergency department close and a 24/7 medical assessment unit and injuries unit take their place.
The move has sparked fury and prompted protests in the county, with many describing the proposal as a “disaster”.
The closure of the A&E would see critically ill patients taken to the emergency department in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda.
The HSE has said Navan hospital will still see around 80% of the 25-30 patients it currently sees daily through these units, but more specialised care will be diverted to hospitals such as Our Lady of Lourdes, Drogheda in Co Louth.
Politicians have raised concerns about the proposal, including the Minister for Justice and Meath East TD Helen McEntee.
The protest in Kells was led by two hearses as protesters claimed the closure will cause deaths.
Aontu leader Peadar Toibin, who has spearheaded the Save Navan Hospital campaign, said the hospital is the most important piece of health infrastructure in the county.
Mr Toibin told PA news agency: “People are really frustrated.
“No matter who you are, at some stage in your life you will need an A&E and need fast access to that A&E, whether it’s an accident or ill health.
“The A&E already processes when over 20,000 people on an annual basis and it offers much faster and safer access, in terms of timescale, then any of the A&Es around.
“The context of this whole debate is that we are in an unprecedented A&E crisis in terms of wait times.
“Never before have people had to wait so long to get health treatment in an A&E.
“The average waiting times for patients in Kells is 12 hours at the moment and indeed the Navan A&E is actually under fierce pressure.
“It’s out the door chock-a-block currently, so the idea of closing capacity in an A&E capacity crisis is just ludicrous.
“We’re demanding that the HSE carry out a proper investigation, a cost-benefit analysis of what it would take to make Navan A&E amongst the safest A&Es in the country, so that they can continue to function safely in the future.”
He also said the closure will shift a “threat to health” to Drogheda.
Mr Toibin said that people will be forced to travel for over an hour to reach the A&E in Drogheda.
In June this year, a number of consultants in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital wrote a letter to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, warning him of a risk to patient safety if the hospital is not properly resourced.
The specialists called for an independent review of what is needed in the hospital before critically ill patients are diverted to Drogheda from Navan.
James Galligan, from Meath, was among those who attended the protest.
“I wouldn’t be standing here today only for Navan accident and emergency,” he said.
“Years ago I had a motorbike accident and I had a bleed on the brain, I was unconscious for a fortnight, and under went emergency surgery.
“If I had to go anywhere else I wouldn’t be here today.
“I was given little chance of survival.
“Everyone wanted me moved out of Navan to go to Dublin but I was told that I was in the safest place and I am here to prove that.
“It’s so important for Navan A&E to stay open.
“There are so many new houses being built in the locality and it is essential to us.
“The feeling here is that some people say if they are going to do it, they will do it, but we have to fight it.
“Nothing else is gained if you do not fight for it.
“We need the A&E in Navan, and it’s crazy to downgrade it.”
Deirdre Butler, from Kells, also attended the protest on Friday.
“The hospital in Navan saved my life.
“I got a bad dog bite years ago and I had to be operated on.
“I was very lucky that Navan hospital was there.
“If that hospital was to close I don’t know how I would have made it.
“I owe my life to them. It would be a total disaster if they closed the A&E.
“The other hospital won’t be able to cope.
“If I had to go to Drogheda hospital I would have to get a bus to Kells, up to Navan then over to Drogheda.
“There’s no transport going from here (Kells) to Drogheda.”
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