Roscommon: Urgent care centre to open Monday

Thursday 07 July 2011 23.30
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Roscommon County Hospital - Fierce opposition to move
Roscommon County Hospital - Fierce opposition to move
Denis Naughten - Loses Fine Gael whip after voting against the party
Denis Naughten - Loses Fine Gael whip after voting against the party
Angry protesters gathered outside the Dáil last night
Angry protesters gathered outside the Dáil last night
Frank Feighan - TD was jostled by the crowd during last night's protest
Frank Feighan - TD was jostled by the crowd during last night's protest

Unions at Roscommon County Hospital have agreed to operate a new urgent care centre to replace the emergency department.

The announcement was made after they met with Health Service Executive management tonight.

The planned urgent care unit and medical assessment unit will replace the facility from 8am-8pm.

For the first month, the urgent care centre will operate for 24-hours a day, staffed by junior hospital doctors and supervised by an emergency consultant from Galway.

This move will depend on getting GPs organised to see if they can provide this service.

After meeting with HSE management tonight the IMPACT trade union has said that specific commitments had been given on the investment needed for daytime surgery at the hospital.

The medical assessment unit proposed for next Monday is not going ahead in the original format that was scheduled.

Earlier, The INMO industrial relations officer Noreen Muldoon had said that there were fundamental issues with regard to safety.

Separately, a representative group for paramedics in the west said the proposals by the HSE for the transport of patients from Co Roscommon to acute general hospitals in Galway, Sligo and Mayo were unacceptable.

Roscommon-South Leitrim TD Denis Naughten lost the Fine Gael whip after he failed to support the party in a vote on the downgrading last night.

A short statement from Fine Gael confirmed that Deputy Naughten had forfeited the party whip for failing to vote with the Government last night.

Speaking to RTÉ, the Roscommon TD confirmed that he would also stand down as chairman of the Dáil Health Committee if requested to do so.

Deputy Naughten said he would have preferred to have the opportunity to address a meeting of the Fine Gael parliamentary party to explain to colleagues his decision, but said the party leadership had found a rule under which they could expel him automatically.

Naughten meetings

Mr Naughten said he had two meetings with Minister for Health James Reilly yesterday and four meetings with Government Chief Whip Paul Keogh before he decided to vote against the Government.

He said he had also had over 70 separate meetings with HSE officials and criticised the way the body handled the arrangements and the procedures for the downgrade, calling it appalling.

Mr Naughten apologised to several members of the Fine Gael party for leaving them in a difficult position, but he said they knew the position he was in and that he and his family had been under severe pressure.

'I have to live with myself first of all and that is the reason I made this decision,' he said.

During the election campaign, the two Fine Gael candidates in Roscommon/South Leitrim, Mr Naughten and Frank Feighan, promised that the emergency department would be retained.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Feighan said he did not feel he had turned his back on his constituents after he decided to vote with the Government.

He said he had received a lot of abuse, including a threat to put a bullet in his head, but that he had been elected on many issues.

Local anger was shown in a public protest outside the Dáil, timed to coincide with the vote on a Sinn Féin motion calling for the emergency departments in Roscommon and a number of other hospitals to be retained.

Roscommon Cllrs

Meanwhile, ten Fine Gael councillors on Roscommon County Council are to meet to consider a move to resign from the party after last night's Dáil vote and the retention of hospital services.

Cllr Laurence Fallon, who represents the mid Roscommon area adjacent to Mr Naughten's home, said he and the other councillors in the party had all canvassed with Mr Naughten and Mr Feighan with a view that Roscommon hospital would be maintained at the level it was at.

'That promise has not been kept and we will act very quickly to make a decision on whether or not to resign from Fine Gael,' said Cllr Fallon.

Cllr Fallon said he did not believe the HSE needed to respond with the urgency they had making the decision to close the emergency dept.

He said he felt HSE management was sometimes making decisions and moving ahead of the Health Minister and was trying to pre-empt his political decision.

Sharp exchanges in the Dáil

In the Dáil this morning, Independent TD Finian McGrath called on Mr Feighan to withdraw remarks he made last night about Luke 'Ming' Flanagan.

Mr Feighan last night called the Roscommon Independent TD a 'political thug'.

Mr McGrath said it was important to have 'cool and calm' debate on health and said Mr Feighan's remarks were 'absolutely disgraceful'.

Responding, Fine Gael backbencher Mary Mitchell O'Connor claimed that texts were sent to TDs yesterday calling them 'murderers and traitors'.