[Sinn Fein]

30th September 2002

Monaghan General Hospital protest brought to Taoiseach's door

Monaghan people demanding the restoration of services to their General Hospital are today beginning a month-long protest fast and vigil outside the Department of the Taoiseach in Dublin. They are demanding the direct intervention of the Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to save Monaghan Hospital from downgrading and eventual closure.

Protesters will maintain the vigil and fast on bread and water beginning today at 12 noon and continuing in 24-hour relays until 28 October.

Announcing the commencement of the protest, Cavan/Monaghan Deputy TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, said:

``This protest has been organised in response to the growing anger of citizens in County Monaghan who are incensed at the continuing loss of services in their General Hospital and frustrated at the total lack of Government response to their repeated representations. The protest format was inspired by the words of The King's Threshold by W.B. Yeats.

``The deliberate downgrading of services at Monaghan General Hospital began last year with the closure of the Maternity Unit. This was followed by the loss of in-hospital gynaecological services. The situation has deteriorated rapidly this summer and Ambulance personnel have been instructed to by-pass Monaghan Hospital with Accident and Emergency cases. This is despite the fact that Cavan and Drogheda Hospitals (where the bulk of Monaghan cases are transferred) are dangerously overcrowded. At the same time hospital beds are lying idle at Monaghan General. This is a scandalous situation. The health of Monaghan people and their very lives are at risk.

``Before their eyes the people of County Monaghan are seeing a once busy General Hospital being reduced to the status of a day healthcare centre.

``County Monaghan people and their elected representatives on local authorities, on the North Eastern Health Board and in the Dáil have called again and again for the Government to take seriously the dire implications for the health of people in our County. A petition of over 35,000 signatures was sent to the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin. Numerous delegations have met him and his officials. There have been protests in County Monaghan, at the Health Board offices in Kells and to the Department of Health in Dublin.

``Minister Martin promised to intervene in a `doomsday' situation yet that day has arrived for Monaghan General Hospital and the Minister has remained aloof. It is long past time that the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health intervened.

``In response to the call for further action from party colleagues and the wider community in County Monaghan, I have with others organised this Protest Fast and Vigil. All who care for the future of Monaghan General Hospital are welcome to participate. Already many people have volunteered to take part during the four-week protest.

``Our message to the Taoiseach and the Minister for Health is simple:

We demand your intervention to ensure the full restoration of services at Monaghan General Hospital and their further development;

We demand the location of a regional specialty at Monaghan, placing our hospital at the heart of a vibrant regional and cross-border acute hospital service.''

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