[Sinn Fein]

17th December 2002

SF TD demands clarification on Cherry Orchard

Workers and public kept in dark about plans to downgrade infectious disease hospital

Sinn Fein TD Aengus Ó Snodaigh will today raise at the Order of Business and through a Matter on the Adjournment moves to downgrade Cherry Orchard Hospital from January 1st next. Deputy Ó Snodaigh became aware of the moves through sources close to the hospital. The Dublin South Central TD will call on the Minister for Health and Children to halt the attempts to downgrade Cherry Orchard from an acute hospital to a step-down hospital.

He said: I am asking the Minister for Health and Children to clarify the position of the Government in relation to the current and future status of Cherry Orchard Hospital. It is not good enough that staff at the hospital and the general public still do not know what is planned for this hospital from New Years day next.

As the only hospital specifically equipped to deal with infectious diseases in the state it would be extremely short-sighted if its isolation units were to be closed and the hospital itself downgraded. The facilities provided by this hospital are absolutely vital in the event of a statewide outbreak of infectious disease, or if the country was struck either deliberately or accidentally by chemical or biological weapons.

I want the Minister to explain the ramifications of this downgrading, and to clarify if he is going to provide funding to other hospitals so that they can be prepared and fitted out with the equipment they would be required to have on stand-by in case of emergencies.

The reality of closing down hospital units and reducing services, without preparing contingencies has become only too clear in recent times with the tragic death of baby Bronagh Livingstone in Monaghan. I am calling on the Minister to call a halt to his Departments plans to downgrade this facility and to instead to have the hospital upgraded in line with the assessment of the Irish Medical Council recommendations. ENDS

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