About 5,000 people have turned out in Portlaoise this afternoon, to protest over plans to downgrade the Midland Regional Hospital in the town.

It comes amid concerns that a shortage of junior doctors would see the removal of 24 hours emergency services from the hospital.

Fine Gael TD Charlie Flanagan has insisted the Midland Regional Hospital will not see any curtailment of services.

The HSE said they will be able to maintain 24-hour emergency services from 11 July, pending a number of remaining junior doctor posts being filled as anticipated.

Speaking at the protest this afternoon, Chairperson of the Portlaoise Hospital Action Group, Kathleen O'Brien called on the Minister for Health James Reilly to upgrade and maintain services at the hospital.