Fine Gael pair threaten to vote against hospital cuts
TWO Government TDs are threatening to vote against the Coalition if their local hospital services are downgraded.
Fine Gael backbenchers John Paul Phelan and Paudie Coffey joined a huge march protesting against the possible downgrade of Waterford Regional Hospital.
Health Minister James Reilly is poised to save up to €300m by reorganising hospital services across the country.
A long-awaited report will recommend smaller hospitals be downgraded and "grouped" with larger ones countrywide.
The move will mean several small hospitals' 24-hour accident and emergency departments will be replaced with "urgent care centres" operating from 8am to 8pm as already seen in Roscommon Hospital.
Hospitals under particular scrutiny include Waterford, Loughlinstown, Bantry, Mallow, Limerick and Navan.
Such a plan would see Waterford Regional Hospital and South Tipperary General Hospital linking up with Cork University Hospital and St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny, and Wexford General partnering with teaching hospitals in Dublin.
It is feared in Waterford that the end of the southeast network would lead to some services being transferred away.
More than 12,000 people marched through Waterford on Saturday in protest at what they called the "latest official attack" on their city.
The Coalition has already lost a TD over the downgrading of hospital services.
Fine Gael's Denis Naughten left the government ranks over the loss of the A&E service in Roscommon last year, while his constituency colleague Frank Feighan has come under intense pressure ever since.
Mr Coffey, from Waterford, and Mr Phelan, from Kilkenny, were joined by Waterford Labour TD Ciara Conway during Saturday's march.
The two Fine Gael deputies didn't dismiss voting against the Government if the hospital services were downgraded.
"I'll consider my position if it comes to that," said Mr Coffey.
"I think we'll have to consider that if that bridge comes in front of us," added Mr Phelan.