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Brave Mary reached 100 then her hospital service was dropped

A 100-year-old woman is the latest victim of health cutbacks following the withdrawal of her hospital transport.

Dubliner Mary Byrne had availed of a fortnightly mini-bus service to bring her to Cherry Orchard Hospital for respite care. But the minibus service has now been withdrawn in the latest series of cutbacks by the HSE.

Her daughter Helen Doyle (55) told the Herald: "Up until the age of 99, my mother didn't look for any handouts. For the past year she had used the mini-bus service and loved it. Now they've taken it away and it's been very disruptive for her.

"I don't drive and I would never even consider the idea of my mother walking to the hospital. I have to organise lifts for her now which includes looking for taxis.

"My mam was used to the minibus and knew all the drivers. It became a routine and she looked forward to going. She shouldn't have to be disrupted at her age."

Ms Doyle, who lives with her mother in Ballyfermot and is her sole carer, said: "We got just one day's notice that the minibus service was being withdrawn."

She said the regular service allows her mother to become a patient in a respite ward at Cherry Orchard for three days in each fortnight.

"I'm delighted with the respite service as it gives me a much needed break to do jobs around the house and have a bit of time to myself.

"I was disappointed when the minibus was taken away as my mother had got very used it coming every fortnight. It means changing her habits," she said.

The 100-year-old mother gets a home-help visit for one hour four times a week.

A HSE spokesperson was reported to have stated that the social work department of Cherry Orchard Hospital will explore, on an individual basis, how respite patients will be transferred to and from hospital.

Mary was born in her family home in Erne Street in Dublin in May, 1910. Her daughter said Mary can still recount memories of Dublin during the 1916 Rising. She has 36 grandchildren and 22 great-grandchildren. Remarkably, she still plays bridge every week and still wins, said Helen.

As a sole carer, Helen had taken part in protest marches about cuts in the health services. She carries the same banner which warns that carers cannot go on strike but they can vote.

Gerry Royal (68), manager of the Ballyfermot Community Association, told the Herald that the axed transport services for the respite patients could have a devastating effect for some of the elderly and their carers.

He said that protest campaigns are being contemplated in a bid to get the transport service restored, including street protests.

"As well as street protests, we are thinking of taking our protest to the European Parliament. All these Government cuts affecting the sick and the elderly makes it appear that we are no longer a nation, just a State," he said.

"These cuts are causing no end of stress for carers. We should be trying to look after our carers."