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Community Alliance - More Promises broken?

The Community Alliance met on Tuesday, August 2nd 2011. There was a good turnout of members but some members of the public and three councillors arrived as they were under the impression that it was a public meeting. This arises from an interview carried on Northern Sound where the chairman was asked what the Alliance was going to do now and he replied that the Alliance would have an emergency meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the situation and the future. Apologies, for the misunderstanding, to those who arrived.


There was anger, frustration and an air of despondency at the meeting itself. Anger because promises made were being broken again. Instead of getting enhanced services we were about to lose more and it was felt that our Fine Gael public representatives were not doing enough to ensure the future of the hospital. Frustration because when it appears that advances are being made, as the Medical Assessment Unit, this happens, which makes us doubt the sincerity of those who showed interest in the MAU for Monaghan. Despondency because the hospital was still a game and a football to be kicked around and money was more important than patients. As well, when one looks at what is happening in the health service one cannot see any hope that things are going to improve any time soon – as a matter of fact they are destined to get worse.


However the mood soon changed as the committed members knew that the campaign must go on and the battle to make health care safe for the people of Monaghan must continue. Various items, ideas and proposals were discussed at length and some of these need further consideration and some time to garner facts and opinions. The meeting did decide on a few things.


Firstly the Fine Gael public representatives must be approached and our demands for the people of Monaghan made very clear and unambiguous. We need to know where each of them stand on the issue and what lengths they are prepared to go to convince the Government that the present policy is faulty and must be changed. As it is holiday time that meeting will not take place for three weeks or so.


The Alliance also needs to know what level of public support is there for any action that the Alliance might decide on and what ideas members of the public might have of achieving our demands. A public meeting will be called later to explain the situation to the public but we need to ascertain a timeframe and exact details of the reduction in services that is going to take place in Monaghan.


Thirdly efforts will be made to get HIQA conduct a review of safety in Cavan Hospital as well as Louth and Louth/Meath hospitals and more importantly a review of the emergency services available to the people of Monaghan and safety issues that are involved there. Indeed Impact Reports are essential to all planning (environmental impacts; victim impacts, etc) and yet there is no compulsion for Patient Impact Reports when a hospital is being downgraded. There should be.


The Alliance will continue to work at national level to build up a strong lobby group representing various hospital action groups and patient support groups. An open and national debate is necessary on the current Government policy and the national media will be asked to question more of the ‘spin’ being churned out to the public. The Alliance needs to see the research on which ‘international best practice’ is based and questions the origin of many tenets on which the Government is basing its policy.


The Minister for Health disbanded the HSE Board and it was thought that this was the beginning of a reorganisation of the bureaucratic monster, which is the HSE. That has not happened and instead the Minister appears to be using phrases very common to replies from the previous Minister in that he claims that what is happening is the work of the HSE and that he has no input there. Is he now washing his hands and hiding behind the HSE walls? The Minister must accept responsibility and he cannot offload it to a HSE, which he has himself admitted in dysfunctional. This is where he should have started by getting the management and administration of the system working properly before he began his swingeing cuts and the transfer of services to overcrowded and poorly resourced centres elsewhere. Such an upheaval in the system demanded a highly skilled and efficient management system or chaos would be the only outcome. The present plans also demands a huge capital input and expenditure, which he claims he has not got, as without that spend the new system will be more unsafe than what went before, as we are seeing every day.


The Alliance also wants the Regional Hospital back on the table and once again state that providing this in the Monaghan area would be a very strategic move. It could serve a wide area on a cross-border basis and could offer specialist services depending on specific needs of the region. The question arises regarding the cost of building and fitting out such a major project. The Alliance would claim that if the EU, IFI, Interreg, CAWT and other funding agencies came together to provide the capital then it is achievable and the outcomes for peace and reconciliation and cross-border so-operation would be immense. It would also revitalise the life of the region and open up many possibilities for expanding the economic growth and activity on both sides of the border.


However the immediate concern for the Alliance is the further removal of vital services from Monaghan. If the 37% cut in agency staffing and locums is applied then frontline services will have to be reduced as Monaghan depends largely on agency staff since the HSE relocated many of the former permanent staff from there during and after the removal of services in July 2009. If the opening hours of the Minor Injuries Unit is reduced as planned then a very big number of people are going to suffer, physically and financially, and some of these may have to pay with their lives. Health Insurance is getting dearer and is getting beyond the ability of more and more to afford the costs. Those with Insurance have the comfort of knowing that they can head to Dublin to avail of Private Hospitals but in an emergency you do not have time to get to Dublin and you will want treatment as quickly as possible. Will you have time and transport to get to Cavan or Drogheda? If you have no insurance and Monaghan is closed you must ask yourself – where do I go now and how do I get there? These are serious questions and answers are needed now.

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