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Conway-Walsh appalled by Minister Ring’s angry outburst and refusal to meet with Hospital Action Group

1 July, 2019 - by Rose Conway-Walsh

Speaking after today’s visit to Belmullet Hospital by Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly, Sinn Féin Senator Rose Conway-Walsh expressed her dismay at Minister Michael Ring’s angry outburst against her and his refusal to meet with the Community Action Group.

Senator Conway-Walsh said:

“We live in a democracy.  I make no apologies to Minister Ring for standing up for my community and the people of Mayo.  Belmullet Hospital is an important issue, not only for the people in Erris but for the wider Mayo area and indeed the Mayo Diaspora.  We are entitled to ask legitimate questions and get truthful answers.

“If Minister Ring finds that offensive, he needs to remember all the times he ‘called on the Minister’ when he was in opposition.  He is now at the Cabinet table and has collective responsibility for the delivery of healthcare in Mayo.  It astounding that Minister Ring, as Minister for Community & Rural Development, takes issue with the very principles of Community Development.

“I was left outside of the door at the hospital for 15 minutes and it was only the chanting of the crowd gathered outside chanting ‘let Rose in’ that led to me being allowed in. 

“At a subsequent meeting with Minister Daly and the HSE, Minister Ring and Cllr. Coyle said they were disappointed that the community had gathered.  In fairness, Minister Daly said he had no problem with the crowd gathered and said he understood the importance of the hospital.  I personally want to thank each and everyone who turned up to show their support for the Hospital.

“Minister Daly said he wanted the 20 beds to remain open and would be discussing how this could be done with the HSE and Hospital Management, but there was an overspend on residential services in Mayo and Galway that must be brought back.  The HSE confirmed that they had told Union Reps that the beds would be reduced to 15 at a meeting ten days ago.

“I raised the issue of the restrictions in referring patients from GPs and A&E and how it was distorting the figures to suggest insufficient need.  The HSE said that Belmullet was the only unit in the state now that referrals could be taken from GPs and A&E. I asked if there was a written protocol on this and was told there was not.  I have requested that an official memorandum be issued to all relevant personnel to avoid any future misunderstandings.

“I was astounded to hear from the HSE that many patients from Belmullet chose to go to other district hospitals in the County.  I absolutely refute this.  In almost twenty years of working in the community, I have never once heard of anyone who was clinically discharged to Belmullet Hospital choosing to go to another hospital.

“The Minister confirmed that the investment promised to upgrade the hospital was not on the 2021 Capital Plan.  I asked that it be included in the Capital Plan as the community was concerned that they would pay the price for the overspend on the Children’s hospital when we urgently need access to healthcare here in Erris and in Mayo.

“Minister Daly said he would meet Public Representatives from Mayo within six weeks for an update on Belmullet Hospital.  I look forward to that meeting and urge him to meet members of the Local Hospital Action Group, regardless of Minister Ring’s animosity as witnessed towards us.” 

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