The head of the HSE Paul Reid has said the closure of the emergency department (ED) at Our Lady's Hospital in Navan should not be about politics but about saving people's lives.

He said today that plans to close the ED are continuing and the HSE is working through a number of steps to reassure everyone, including the Minister for Health and local politicians.

"There’s been continued dialogue this week between ourselves and the department and the minister," said Mr Reid.

Speaking in Carrick-on-Shannon, he said the HSE will take a number of steps in the coming weeks, in relation to increasing capacity at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda and improving the strength of the National Ambulance Service.

He also said that the HSE will give clarity around the 24/7 medical assessment unit, which will replace the ED in Navan.

Mr Reid said the HSE will proceed through these steps over the coming weeks and move to implement the planned changes.

"This is not about politics; it’s about saving people's lives. It's really important that we all remind ourselves about that," he said.

We need your consent to load this rte-player contentWe use rte-player to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences

Govt 'not comfortable' with closure

Meanwhile Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government is "not comfortable" that now is the right time to close the emergency department in Navan.

He said the best way forward is through engagement and consultation between all parties in the north east, and urged medical consultants in Navan to engage on the issue.

"The HSE has a position on it, the Government has a position on it. The Government is not comfortable right now that it is the time to do this," he told reporters in Dublin.

Mr Martin said Covid is still putting enormous pressure on emergency departments right across the country. "I think that is a factor in Navan as well," he said.

"Drogheda is under pressure, the consultants in Drogheda are saying they need space and they need time to consider this and they need more resources, in order to facilitate a reconfiguration," he said.

"This has to get resolved through more engagement and more consultation, rather than edicts from any particular quarter," he said.

Resignation 'purely about family'

In relation to his decision to step down from the HSE, Mr Reid said that for many years he had carried out very senior roles at executive level and CEO level in in the private sector, local government, central government, not-for-profit sector and most recently in the Health Service in the past three years.

"They are very demanding roles and I do want a period now to have give some time back with my family, to have that flexibility to create time," he said.

"They have made sacrifices for me over many years and I really want to give them some time back now and give some flexibility in my life."

Asked if, given the timing of his announcement, it had anything to do with the controversy over Navan hospital, Mr Reid said that his "departure is purely related to giving some time back to family".

"There's many frustrations every day in the health service, many difficult conversations between executives and the political system, but I'm in the public service for 12 years and we've dealt with very big issues and Navan doesn't rate at the top of the issues that would have forced in terms of resigning, it's purely about family."

Reporting: Eileen Magnier, Sinéad Hussey, Mary Regan