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Campaigners' fight to save St Luke's fails as bill passed

CAMPAIGNERS fighting to save St Luke's Hospital in Dublin have lost the battle.

The bill giving effect to the dissolution of the hospital's board and the transfer of employees and assets to the HSE was passed in the Dail.

A last-minute demonstration was staged outside Leinster House by protesters, including former patients and writer Ulick O'Connor.

St Luke's cancer services will close in 2014 and be transferred to St James's and Beaumont hospitals in Dublin.



VERBAL

The Health (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill will now go before the Seanad.

The Labour Party's Ruairi Quinn had sought a commitment written in to the legislation that St Luke's would not be sold off in the future.

A verbal undertaking from Health Minister Mary Harney was not worth the paper it was not written on, he said.

Fine Gael's Lucinda Creighton criticised the voting down of the Opposition's amendments by deputies who, she said, did not even listen to the arguments.

Ms Harney said she was weary of the Opposition declaring support for the National Cancer Strategy but not backing individual aspects of the programme.

She said last week the hospital would be retained as a public health facility after its cancer services are closed. Labour health spokeswoman Jan O'Sullivan had put forward an amendment proposing the hospital could only be used for medical purposes relating to cancer treatment.

Ms O'Sullivan had said the change would have helped maintain the hospital's "unique atmosphere" about which so many people testify.

However, Ms Harney said she did not want to place such a prescriptive proposal in the legislation before she saw proposals from the board of St Luke's.

The site would be retained for public health services which might be a combination of palliative care and long-term care, she told a Dail Committee on Health. Ms O'Sullivan's amendment was defeated by a majority of the committee.



ETHOS

There was a genuine fear that the site would be sold off and a verbal commitment was not enough, Ms O'Sullivan said.

The ethos of St Luke's would be kept and the hospital would not be sold, Ms Harney said.

Land near the city centre for public health use was hard to get and there would be a growing demand for health services so St Luke's would be used, she added.

Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said there was a recurring theme in the HSE of taking away services today on the promise of nirvana tomorrow which does not come.

SEE PAGE 15


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