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Gilmore under fire over silence on local hospital

PRESSURE was mounting on Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore today as he appeared to fudge answers on whether he will back cuts at his local hospital.

The Health Service Executive plans to curtail A&E services at St Columcille's Hospital in Loughlinstown.

Mr Gilmore has staunchly defended the facility in the past but is now refusing to say whether he will stand by the cutbacks or fight to save 24-hour emergency services.

Instead a spokesman told the Herald that no "definitive decision has been taken".

"Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore TD received an assurance from the HSE that briefing meetings will be held at various locations so that the public will be fully informed of the outcome of the Review of Acute Hospital Services at St Columcille's Hospital."

The statement added that Mr Gilmore "was also informed that all public representatives for Wicklow and Dun Laoghaire will be consulted before any decision is taken by the HSE".

His response is at odds with other government TDs in the Dun Laoghaire constituency who support the downgrade.

Mr Gilmore's opponents were today lumping pressure on him to take a firm stance given that he previously campaigned to keep the 24-hour department open.

People Before Profit TD Richard Boyd Barrett this morning accused Mr Gilmore of "breaking promises".

"It's not good enough to sit on the fence. Mr Gilmore has made promises to the electorate in relation to the protection of Loughlinstown and he needs to come out and say clearly whether he's going to stick to those promises.

"Is he just going to hide as his coalition colleagues bring in cuts?"

No date has been publicly announced by the HSE for the downgrade of A&E services but the Herald understands that a provisional November date has been set.

Loughlinstown is located 12km from St Vincent's Hospital which has a full 24-hour emergency service.

There were 15 patients on trolleys in St Columcilles hospital yesterday with 23 patients waiting on trolleys in St Vincent's.

Five of the seven government TDs across the Dun Laoghaire and Wicklow constituencies said they are backing the HSE when contacted by the Herald. Ceann Comhairle Sean Barrett could not comment due to Oireachtas commitments.

One TD went as far as saying the move could be the "makings of Loughlinstown".

"Patients have to be put first and what we're seeing is a diluted service between Loughlinstown, St Michael's and St Vincent's," said FG TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor.

"I have met with a number of consultants and they have assured me that the curtailment plans will result in a much better health service," she added.