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Angry council exchanges as blame is dished out over hospital plan

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Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise

The five-year strategy by the HSE which includes the downgrade of Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise will be “physically removed” from Dr Susan O’Reilly’s hands and shredded, if the planned launch goes ahead on Thursday.

Cllr Caroline Dwane Stanley made the claim at the monthly meeting of Laois County Council earlier today.

There was at times a heated exchange of views over the current situation, after it emerged on Friday Minister Charlie Flanagan and deputies Sean Fleming and Brian Stanley had met with Minister for Health Simon Harris to be briefed on the hospital.

At this meeting Minister Harris said he had made no final decision on a report from Dr Susan O’Reilly which proposes a downgrade of the hospital and removal of emergency services there.

It later emerged that invitations were being sent out for the launch of the five-year plan by the HSE were being sent out on the same day, to be held on Thursday at the Trinity Biomedical Sciences Centre.

Cllr Willie Aird had a motion before the meeting inviting Minister Harris and Dr O’Reilly to attend a meeting of Laois County Council.

“I am asking the two of them to come. If you don’t, you are going to be told there was no proper protocol and we were never asked,” he said.

Disappointment was expressed by Cllr Aird that members of the Save Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise Action Committee were not allowed attend the meetings last week.

He said an email request sent by them was only acknowledged, but they got no response.

He said he believes the local committee will attend the launch if it goes ahead, where they will protest.

Cllr Aird said that responsibility does not rest solely with his party and he claimed that Fianna Fáil should “take the hit” as it is part of the government.

Cllr Paddy Bracken responded that they were only part of a confidence and supply arrangement.

“If Deputy Sean Fleming was part of the cabinet, we as a group would make sure the decision would be taken in favour of Portlaoise hospital,” he said.

The report by Dr O’Reilly and subsequent launch was described as “bully boy tactics from the HSE,” by Cllr Dwane Stanley.

She said Deputy Brian Stanley had been flagging the under funding of the hospital in Portlaoise for many years.

Council cathaoirleach Cllr Padraig Fleming noted that Minister Simon Harris had given an undertaking to consult with them once the plan was published.

“This woman knows nothing about Portlaoise,” Cllr Noel Tuohy said.

Fall guy

“Dr Susan O’Reilly is going to be the fall guy. She is taking the political heat off the man (Minister Harris) who should make the decision,” Cllr Brendan Phelan said.

The will have “missed the boat” if the strategy is launched before they meet with Minister Harris.

Cllr Tom Mulhall said all the elected representatives should hang their heads in shame if they allow the hospital to be downgraded.

However, Cllr Dwane Stanley said Sinn Féin is not in power. She said her party had sent a email requesting that the launch not go ahead.

“A Fine Gael minister is going to make the decision,” Cllr Phelan said.

Pleading

Cllr James Kelly said he was pleading with the six Fine Gael members of the council to contact Minister Flanagan to ask him to get the Minister for Health or the Taoiseach to cancel the launch on Thursday.

Cllr Mulhall said they would be talking with Minister Flanagan later that afternoon.

SEE ALSO – Save Portlaoise Hospital group plan mass protest on Thursday

The LaoisToday 2017 Annual is now on sale in bookshops and newsagents around the county – this is where you can buy it