[Sinn Fein]

7th January 2003

Health Minister must act on A and E closures threat - Ó Caoláin

The Minister for Health and Children Micheal Martin has been urged to act to avert the closure of Accident and Emergency units throughout the State following the coming into effect of new training rules imposed by the College of Surgeons. Sinn Fein Health spokesperson Caoimhghin Ó Caoláin TD said this latest development ``could see more hospitals in the same predicament as Monaghan''. Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

``Changes in training rules now being implemented by the College of Surgeons, as signalled by the Irish Medical Organisation, have been in the offing for a long time. Yet the Minister for Health and Children Micheál Martin has not acted to ensure that all existing Accident and Emergency services are maintained. On the contrary he has presided over a situation where in Monaghan the hospital has been off call for the past six months with accident and emergency cases being diverted to Cavan and Drogheda.

``As I predicted, the downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital is now being used as a template to cut services in other hospitals around the 26 Counties.

``This is part of the drive towards more and more centralisation and will cause real hardship to communities who depend on their hospitals. The threat to reduce the number of accident and emergency units is a very dangerous development. This threat must be confronted by all who cherish their local hospital services and the essential network of hospital sites throughout this State.

``The College of Surgeons and the Irish Medical Organisation are saying that more A and E consultants are required to meet the new training rules, to ensure standards and to avoid medical litigation. We need to know if the Minister agrees with this assessment and if so why have the necessary appointments not been made. If the Minister does not agree with the assessment then what action will he take to ensure that existing A and E units are not closed or curtailed?

``Minister Martin must act to avert what could be a devastating blow to A and E services throughout the State. He is the responsible Minister and he cannot continue to hide behind the professional bodies or the health boards.''

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