Fianna Fáil Longford Westmeath TD Peter Kelly was booed and heckled by large sections of the crowd as he tried to speak after a protest concerning the future of the Midlands Regional Hospital in Mullingar this afternoon.

Deputy Kelly told the crowd he was committed to keeping the hospital open and would work with all parties to try to achieve this.

However, his address was interrupted on several occasions by some of the protestors who were sharply critical of the Government and the Health Service Executive.

Irish Nurses and Midwives Association spokesperson Lorraine Monaghan told the crowd that the closure of a theatre in Mullingar this summer would lead to severe disruption for patients and the cancellation of elective surgery if it went ahead.

Ms Monaghan said additional resources are necessary now to deal with the high rate of activity in the hospital.

She said staff were struggling to provide a safe level of care because 36 nurses and midwives who had left have not been replaced.

More than 4,000 people attended the protest.

The protestors gathered at the hospital in the town shortly after 2pm and marched to the centre of the town.