Labour MEP Phil Prendergast has expressed concern about the impact the proposed merger of North and South Tipperary county councils will have on health services and economic development.
“We’ll be the only county in the country served by two different health authorities and two different business-development agencies.
“North Tipp is part of the Midwest region while South Tipp is in the South East. This could have profound implications for the strategic development of the whole county.
“It seems likely that North Tipp will have to come into the South East region. That would mean the various agencies that support services and development will have to reconfigure budgets and staff to account for the additional population.
“Representation on the Regional Assembly would also be needed especially because EU structural funds are distributed through the regional authorities.
“The merger could also have implications for the development of social services, particularly health. For instance, the proposal to close St. Michael’s Mental Health Unit in Clonmel needs to take account of the potentially new circumstances.
“I believe the closure would be an even bigger mistake if North Tipp became part of the HSE South East. The plan to close the unit hinges on North Tipp service users, who account for nearly half the patients, being transferred from Clonmel to the HSE Midwest region.
“These patients will now likely be part of the HSE South East region which means an average of 20-odd acute mental health beds will still be needed in our system. This points to renovation of St Michael’s into a unit of around 25-beds being the best option.
“Staff working in both county councils will be concerned about their jobs after Minister Hogan’s surprise announcement. But it should be remembered that their terms and conditions are governed by the Croke Park deal. That means no forced redundancies.
“For some, the voluntary redundancy offers an opportunity but those who want to stay at work are entitled to do so.”