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Minister must act with urgency on Cavan Hospital - Ó Caoláin

2 February, 2004

Sinn Féin Health spokesperson and Cavan/Monaghan TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has called on the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin to intervene directly to address public concern at the current situation in Cavan General Hospital. This follows representations to the Minister from consultants at Cavan and the continuing delay in beginning an inquiry into a dispute between two consultants - an inquiry established in August 2003.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said that while the death of a child at the weekend had added to concern over the situation in Cavan Hospital, pending the result of the autopsy and the inquiry by the Health Board, it is too early to draw any conclusions. The Cavan/Monaghan TD, who visited the bereaved family in Cootehill this (Monday) evening said they were greatly distressed by repeated phone calls to their home from journalists. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said:

"Our foremost thoughts must be with the bereaved Sheridan family in their time of grief. Parents Brian and Rosemary and their surviving children are greatly distressed as they prepare to lay Frances to rest. I regret to say that some members of the media have displayed insensitivity and I would urge them to give the family the space to grieve in peace and quiet.

"Until the autopsy results are known it is too early to come to any conclusions on the full circumstances of this tragic death. It is an open question as to whether it relates in any way to the current difficulties at the hospital. It must be said that the family themselves have expressed gratitude for the care they received at Cavan General Hospital in the past."

Turning to the current problems in the hospital, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"Cavan General Hospital has been in an uncertain state since before the suspension of two consultants last year. An inquiry was established by the Minister in August 2003 and it is a disgrace that nearly six months later that inquiry has not even begun. It is a scandal that a dispute by the Irish Hospital Consultants Association over what doctors serving on the inquiry panel will be paid should be allowed to cause such a delay.

"I welcomed the news last August that the two consultants had been suspended and an inquiry initiated. This was a long-running dispute and a real cause of concern to staff and patients alike. It has added to the pressure on the hospital during the past 18 months after the Accident and Emergency unit at Monaghan was taken off call. This placed an added burden on Cavan, as did the closure of the Maternity Unit at Monaghan.

"Back in August I called on the Health Board executive to ensure that the suspensions caused minimum disruption to patient services, as they promised in their statement at the time. But clearly this has not been the case.

"The Minister for Health and Children must intervene directly to address public concern at the current situation in Cavan General Hospital. We cannot wait for the outcome of an inquiry which has not even begun. I will be raising this matter in the Dáil this week." ENDS

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