Mother tells of mercy dash with son (8) as A&E protests mount
AT eight years old, William Tully has little understanding of the growing row over local health services.
But when he became seriously ill at home, his family learned of the vital importance of having an emergency department close by.
His case has become a stark illustration of the growing fears in towns across the country as threats to local hospital services grow stronger.
The funding crisis in the HSE and a shortage of junior doctors from July 11 means that emergency departments in several locations are facing harsh cutbacks. And there are fears of downgrades at a number of hospitals including Midlands Regional, Mullingar, and Roscommon.
But local communities are set to step up campaigns to retain vital hospital services.
In Roscommon yesterday, Anne Tully spoke of her relief that the town's hospital was able to take in her son William when a "huge emergency" struck in April this year.
William was recovering at his home on the Boyle Road just outside Roscommon town following a tonsils operation at a private hospital when he became very ill.
His mother was collecting his medication at a local pharmacy when she received a phone call from husband, Anthony, to say the youngster had started bleeding from his mouth.
By the time she arrived home, the bleeding had increased significantly and the couple knew that he needed emergency treatment.
While Mr Tully drove to Roscommon Hospital -- which is just three miles away -- his wife held William in the back, catching the blood spewing from his mouth with a saucepan. But William passed out before they arrived.
"The A & E staff took over immediately and got him up on drips and gave him oxygen straight away. It was a huge emergency, but they got him back and managed to stabilise him. It was very frightening. One of the nurses was crying and I had never seen a nurse cry before," she said.
"I don't want to think what might have happened if we had to go any further than our local hospital. I'll never forget that night.
"There isn't a day goes by that I don't think of how lucky we were, or how serious things might otherwise have been, if A & E hadn't been there."
Following the emergency Mrs Tully wrote to Health Minister Dr James Reilly, pointing out the importance of the facility in Roscommon. The minister replied to say that she would hear from him.
The chairman of the Roscommon Hospital Action Committee, John McDermott, said he knew of two instances in recent months when children's lives were saved at the local A & E.
"I know people and some politicians talk about A & E as if it was simply bricks and mortar and equipment. It's not, it's about people's lives," he said.
A public meeting will be held in Roscommon tonight as anger mounts over the scaling back of emergency services at the local hospital.
There are similar concerns at Mullingar Hospital, with fears that patients requiring emergency treatment may be diverted to the Midlands Regional Hospital in Tullamore.
An angry public meeting was held in Portlaoise last night amid growing concern that the emergency department at the Midlands Regional Hospital will suffer a downgrade due to a shortage of medical staff.
"Roscommon and Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe are now effectively satellite hospitals for Galway University Hospital, but Galway is effectively 73 miles away from here.
"For someone who has had a stroke or heart attack, that's not an option, given the 'Golden Hour' principle.
"Make no mistake, this is a life or death issue for the people of Roscommon."
Taoiseach Enda Kenny told protesters earlier this week that the emergency department at Roscommon would not operate on a 24-hour basis beyond July 11.
"Things are not going to be the same as they were. We have to change and we will," Mr Kenny said.