All-night vigil over closure of A&E unit
PROTESTERS staged an all- night vigil at a hospital last night in a bid to prevent the downgrading of its 24-hour emergency service.
It was the end of an era as hundreds of demonstrators occupied the A&E unit at Roscommon County Hospital and prevented the doors of the facility being closed as round- the-clock services ended there.
There were tearful scenes as nurses who did the last overnight shift at the unit joined local people and former patients in a candlelit vigil at the unit.
"We are here to make a point and to let politicians and the HSE know that this is our A&E and we're entitled to the same services as everyone else. They cannot just take away a service list from a community," said John McDermott, chairman of the Hospital Action Committee.
A giant banner made of sheets by three staff nurses hung outside the building.
It read : "Our hands can save lives but this is death at the hands of Fine Gael and Labour."
Evie Walsh, one of the nurses who was on duty, said it had been eerie being there on the last night that the emergency service remained open.
"The nurses in the other wards came down to see us. The local priests came and gave us a blessing and members of the action committee and local people dropped in. It was a very sad night. We cannot believe it has come to this," she said.
Last night's demonstration came as ward and bed closures are being planned to stem the biggest hospital cash shortfall in the country. The HSE has confirmed that it is to reduce the number of beds in the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick by 25 in a bid to contain its spiralling deficit.
As part of reducing expenditure in the midwest, the HSE is cutting agency and overtime expenditure by 50pc from August to the end of the year, having previously reduced it by smaller amounts.
Meanwhile, new steps to cut hospital waiting times have been promised by Health Minister James Reilly after new figures revealed that patients attending accident and emergency units in seven hospitals across the country faced waits of more than 24 hours to be admitted.
A spokesman for Dr Reilly said last night he would be very concerned at patients waiting such periods.
But he added the minister had established a "special delivery unit" whose first task was to address overcrowding in A&E units.