Louth TD Peter Fitzpatrick has led calls for the reinstatement of services at the Louth County Hospital, saying he would not support the new Programme for Government unless commitments were made.
Speaking in the Dáil last week, he said: 'It is clear that the health policies pursued in recent years are simply not working. Louth County Hospital in Dundalk is a prime example. It has traditionally served the people of Louth and its surrounding areas for over 60 years. The hospital has always had a tremendous reputation. Previous governments, in their wisdom, decided that it was appropriate to downgrade the hospital, which was a major mistake. We were told that Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda was to be the main acute hospital in the north east, which was also a mistake. It is clear that the downgrading of Louth County Hospital was not only wrong, but has also cost lives. People in Dundalk and the surrounding areas are clear that Louth County Hospital must have its services reinstated.'
He added: 'While I am not going to scaremonger, how many lives could have been saved over the past decade if only we had a fully functioning hospital in Dundalk? The infrastructure is there, the staff are there and more importantly the population is there. During this Covid pandemic, Louth County Hospital has offered strong support to its counterpart in Drogheda, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital. While I welcome the support it gave, it is now time for the full services to be reinstated and for Louth County Hospital to stand alone. This is what the people of Louth and east Meath demand and it is the least they deserve.'
He outlined how the minor injury unit can now treat patients as young as five, saying: 'The people of Dundalk, Louth and the surrounding area thought this was the first step in the right direction. Louth County Hospital has medical wards and plenty of space to expand.
Health Minister Simon Harris said he had visited the Louth County Hospital in 2018.
'I was struck by the dedication, especially to the rehabilitation work that goes on there, and in respect of the Deputy's campaign on the minor injury unit age-appropriate usage, which we were able to reduce to the age of five. It is a brilliant hospital. The policy is to make all hospitals able to provide the full range of services that are appropriate for it. As the Deputy already pointed out, the Drogheda and Dundalk hospitals have been working together during this pandemic. It is about identifying what more hospitals such as the Louth County Hospital can do, and to invest in them to do that.'