Thousands take to streets in anger over health cuts
CAMPAIGNS to oppose cuts in the health service intensified over the weekend as thousands of people protested in counties Meath and Sligo.
In the biggest protest, up to 11,000 people turned out in Navan to protest against cuts to acute services at Our Lady's Hospital in the town.
Last September, the Health Service Executive removed emergency and acute surgery from the hospital with immediate effect. But the HSE insisted the hospital was not closing.
But protesters who brought the town to a standstill on Saturday said the cuts would reduce the hospital's role to that of a community hospital and day-care centre.
The chairperson of the 'Save Navan Hospital' campaign, Sinn Fein councillor Peadar Toibin, said the public were furious and promised more protests.
Saturday's rally was expected to attract about 5,000 people but the crowd that turned up was significantly larger than expected -- taking 25 minutes to walk through the town.
In Sligo, almost 1,000 people have signed letters calling on Health Minister Mary Harney to visit the county to explain her long-term plans for the region's hospitals and health services.
The signed invitations to come to Sligo to detail her department's plans were hung out on a washing line along Sligo's O'Connell Street on Saturday in a two-hour protest organised by the local Labour Party.
Sligo General hospital, which has an overspend of €4.2m this year, has already seen the controversial transfer of breast cancer services to University College Hospital Galway and a reduction in orthopaedic beds in recent months.
There are also concerns about the future of St John's Hospital in the county after the Health Information and Quality Authority recommended that beds at the HSE-run geriatric unit closed unless certain investments were made.