MORE than 3,000 people gathered over the weekend in protest against the feared closure of their local hospital.
The Wicklow District Hospital, in Wicklow Town, which cares for 20 long-stay patients, may be downgraded, or closed, in the coming months after an audit found problems with the building.
The audit, which was carried out by the Health Information and Equality Authority, has not been made public.
Locals from the town and surrounding area turned out in their thousands on Saturday to demand that health authorities keep the hospital open, and vowed to do all in their power to help the unit survive.
Families whose relatives are in the hospital say there were no problems with the structure of the building and praised the care given to those resident at the unit, some of whom have been there for over 20 years.
The HSE has refused to rule out a closure. Arlene Prunty, a member of the organising committee of the Save Wicklow Hospital campaign, addressed the rally and said the hospital was an integral part of the local community.
"Today the people of Wicklow and surrounding areas have shown that we will not tolerate any downgrading or closure of this hospital from the HSE, Mary Harney, or anybody else," she said.
"This protest is the first step to guaranteeing the future of this hospital."