A new medical assessment unit is to be set up at the Midland Regional Hospital Portlaoise, the Health Service Executive has confirmed.

The move follows concerns raised by HIQA over safety standards and months of speculation that the hospital's emergency department is to be downgraded.

This new unit would provide cover for people with less serious and minor injuries.

Locals in Portlaoise had expressed their concern over any move to downgrade the hospital.

After the meeting, Dr O'Reilly said "management, healthcare professionals and the community as a whole share a commitment to ensuring that the patients of Portlaoise hospital receive the highest possible standard of care."

She continued: "HIQA continues to underline outstanding challenges, including the disproportionality high dependency on agency staff at the hospital. We will continue to work on meeting these challenges collectively as we await overall direction from the Department of Health."