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Health Minister accused of stroke politics over Drogheda Hospital

30 September, 2012 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin Louth TD Gerry Adams has accused the Minister for Health James Reilly of “subverting and undermining the HSE consultation into the future of The Cottage Hospital in Drogheda”.
The Sinn Féin TD described the Minister’s actions and those of two government TDs Fergus O Dowd and Gerald Nash as “one of the worst examples in recent years of stroke politics”.
Deputy Adams accused the Taoiseach of ‘turning a blind eye to the disgraceful behaviour of the Health Minister” and demanded that he take “immediate action to replace Dr. Reilly.”
The Sinn Féin TD explained the background to his statement:
“Last Thursday September 27th the HSE published a report into Residential Care in The Cottage Hospital and launched a consultation process.
Hours before the report was published two local government TDs, in collusion with the Minister for Health, issued a statement claiming that they had secured the future of the Cottage Hospital alleging that the HSE ‘has now announced that the Cottage will be transformed into a 30 bed intermediate step down unit’.
No such announcement was made.
It is clear that the Minister and the two government TDs have concocted a position which will see the end of residential care in The Cottage Hospital. It is also clear that they are attempting to railroad this through.
This is at odds with the HSE report which states that ‘no decision has been made to make changes to either of these units (Unit 1 has 15 respite bed and unit 2 has 14 long stay residential care beds) until a thorough appraisal of all services has been completed. The HSE is committed to ongoing engagement and information sharing with all stakeholders including residents, their families, advocates, local action groups and public representatives.’
At a briefing with the HSE on Friday morning September 28th Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams and Councillor Imelda Munster, along with others, were told that the process of consultation would determine the future of the hospital.
As they attended this meeting Fergus O Dowd and Ged Nash were busy distributing leaflets in Drogheda claiming that the ‘Future of the Cottage Hospital secured’.
Their leaflet claimed: ‘The HSE has now announced that the Cottage will be transformed into a 30-bed intermediate care step-down unit… We have worked closely with the Minister for Health Dr. James Reilly TD and the Minister of State for Older People Kathleen Lynch TD and we have secured funding from the Special Delivery Unit to deliver the best possible outcome for all concerned.’
What worth is this consultative process if Fergus O Dowd TD and Ged Nash TD ignore the HSE process and conclude a separate deal with the Health Minister James Reilly about the future shape of The Cottage Hospital?
What’s the point in having a consultation process at all if government TDs and Ministers can unilaterally take decisions?
The action of the two TDs and of the Minister has been to devalue and undermine the consultation process and the role of the HSE.
They have dismissed the concerns of the public. What we now have is another example of the sort of stroke politics which recently saw the Health Minister decide to place two primary care centres in his constituency. This is unacceptable.
Moreover, it should be noted that where transitional bed schemes or ‘step down services’ have been introduced – as happened two years ago when Louth County Hospital’s acute medical ward was downgraded – the beds subsequently closed. The step down ward closed this weekend in Louth County.
The government TDs, like their Minister, are seeking to cut costs and jobs, reduce health resources, and close health services – in this case residential care for the elderly and respite care used by 150 families annually at the Cottage Hospital will end – while claiming to have won a great victory.

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