[Sinn Fein]

11ú Nollaig 2001

Crisis in Louth Health Services

Louth County Councillor Arthur Morgan, speaking following the announcement that the Accident and Emergency unit of the Louth County Hospital in Dundalk is to close, today said:

"The latest move by the North Eastern Health Board to close the Accident and Emergency unit of the Louth County Hospital will have devastating consequences for people throughout this County and surrounding areas.

"It represents a very serious, indeed critical, blow to services at the Louth, which has already seen closures in paediatric, maternity and gynaecological wards. It also represents an indefensible withdrawal of health services from the people of County Louth in general and the people of Dundalk in particular.

"Ambulances attending accidents have been instructed to bring the victims to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, and only 'Life threatening" cases may be brought to the Louth.

Many questions arise from this new policy position: "Who decides which cases are "life threatening"? Ambulance staff are not qualified to make such critical decisions, and it would be grossly unfair to place such a heavy burden on them.

"When was this policy debated and/or approved by the NEHB, and what were the views of the Louth Health Board members? I cannot recall reading or hearing anything of this debate in the media.

"How will Our Lady of Lourdes Hospitals, Drogheda, cope with all the additional patients? We have already seen the disastrous consequences that the closure on the Maternity ward at the Louth has had on the Lourdes Hospital..

Similarly, elective surgery at the Lourdes will be affected because the waiting list will grow ever longer because of this decision. Lourdes cannot cope with the existing workload. How can it be expected to manage this increased responsibility.

"Will additional ambulances be provided at the Louth to compensate for the fact that each trip to Lourdes will effectively take an ambulance out of the local system for up to two hours?"

"The government two weeks ago launched what was claimed to be a radical approach to Health. Announcements such as this in Dundalk prove that the Health system is in crisis and this government is doing nothing about it. I am calling of the Minister for Health to directly intervene to return these essential services to Dundalk and the Louth County Hospital."

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