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New Hospital 'carrot' designed to secure end of NE hospital network - Ó Caoláin

14 June, 2006

Sinn Féin Health Spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD has said, "Any plan that envisages locating a new regional hospital for the North East based solely on population density is scandalous." Deputy Ó Caoláin was reacting to the publication today of the HSE-commissioned Teamwork Report on the future of health services in the North East, which recommends that a new regional hospital be located in "the southern part of the north east". The Sinn Féin Deputy also expressed dismay that the report recommends the further loss of services at existing hospital sites in the region, including at Monaghan, Cavan, Navan and Dundalk.

Sinn Féin members on the North East Regional Health Forum -- covering Cavan, Meath, Louth, Monaghan, Fingal and North Dublin City -- will be meeting in Navan on Monday with party health spokespersons Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD and John O'Dowd to assess the impact of today's report on health services in the region and to discuss a regional health campaign.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said, "Any plan that envisages locating a new regional hospital for the North East based solely on population density is scandalous. People in all parts of the four county area, including Dowra in Co. Cavan, Knockatallon in Co. Monaghan and Carlingford in Co. Louth are equally deserving of safe access to a properly structured hospital facility and should not be disadvantaged because of geographic location."

"I am sure I am reflecting the view of the greater number of people in Co. Monaghan and in Co. Cavan that a further diminution of services at Monaghan General Hospital and the downgrading of Cavan General Hospital is not acceptable. While the carrot of a major new facility will be attractive for some, for the vast majority of people throughout the North East it spells the end of our hospitals as we have known them and it places that same majority at an even greater risk given the distances, road and weather conditions that must be faced in journeying to a far off new hospital location.

"I am strongly of the view that the answer to the longstanding 'crisis' in our hospital services in the north east lies in the reversal of decisions taken in recent years by Health Board and HSE managers at the behest of the Department and Minister of the day. We know we cannot have all services at all sites but we believe firmly that our existing hospital network should be retained with essential services provided at all five and with specialist services available on an apportioned basis, as appropriate.

"This Teamwork Report, which will now be referred to a new HSE Steering Group, envisages only the most basic of care provision at all existing hospital sites. Minor injuries, routine diagnostics and Outpatient Clinics will be the order of the day. All surgical and medical emergencies and all A&E will be centred in the new regional hospital. What of travel times from all parts of the North East? What of the so-called Golden Hour?

"This is yet another report that cites so-called 'international' best practise. Surely we can devise a system geared to the needs of our population and based on our own acute awareness of the deficiencies in our current system. To that end Sinn Féin recently published our new Health Policy for an Ireland of Equals and we intend remaining faithful to the incontrovertible arguments contained therein." ENDS

Note: Sinn Féin members on the North East Regional Health Forum are Joe Reilly -- Meath, Dessie Ellis and Christy Burke -- Dublin, Tómas Sharkey -- Louth, Charlie Boylan -- Cavan, Brian McKenna -- Monaghan.

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