A PROPOSED alignment of St Luke's Hospital with either Dublin or Waterford caused a divide in the council chambers.
Councillors found it difficult to agree at their monthly meeting on whether the hospital should be associated with St James's, Tallaght and the Trinity College teaching group or Waterford Regional and Cork University hospitals.
A proposal for the Dublin alignment was made by Cllr Wayne Fennell who said he believed he had the backing of local GPs following a meeting on the reconfiguration before Christmas.
'St Luke's is Carlow's hospital and St Luke's is seeking an alignment with Dublin,' he said.
' They are university hospitals and I have been talking to GPs and the consensus is that they already have links in place with the Dublin consultants.'
He said he believed that it was the best way forward for patient care but following a challenge from County Manager Tom Barry on promoting and not weakening the south east region, the councillors were unsure about how to move forward.
' The south east region will remain the only region not to have its own regional teaching hospital,' noted Mr Barry. ' We are probably the weakest region in the country and this will be multiplied to a degree. If you link up with Dublin you will weaken the south east region and we have been working hard on strengthening it with regards to a university.'
Work is underway to obtain University status for IT Carlow by linking it with IT Waterford.
Cllr Fennell then said he felt that a link to Waterford Hospital should be included in the proposal along with Dublin but Cathaoirleach Michael Abbey pointed out that the original proposal had already been put to the floor and that he had to take a vote on that first.
Cllr Jim Townsend said he wasn't sure if the link to Dublin had the GPs backing and Cllr Arthur McDonald noted that it was the first time that he had seen people actually canvassing for patients.
'At the end of the day patients are not going to get to decide where they want to go,' he added.
Cllrs Des Hurley and Caroline Townsend called for more information before they were asked to make up their minds.
' We should have a special meeting. There seems to be a difference of opinion here between our two representatives on the HSE committee,' said Cllr Hurley.
The proposal had already been set in motion so Cathaoirleach Abbey called for a vote which ended with councillors from Fine Gael voting in favour and representatives from Fianna Fáil and Labour parties abstaining.