By Eoin Kelleher
NORTH Tipperary’s three TDs rallied the troops on Saturday.
Alan Kelly, Michael Lowry, and Noel Coonan put on a united front last week to meet James Reilly, pressing the case for the retention of the 22 beds.
Minister of State Alan Kelly told the crowd that support needs to be extended to the three local hospitals in North Tipp, including St Conlan’s and St Cronan’s, which work “with a common purpose.”
“This is a broader issue. The three homes work together and share resources,” said Deputy Kelly.
“This is a crazy situation we find ourselves in. We lost a lot of staff because of the moratorium.”
North Tipperary has one of the lowest ratios of patients to beds in the whole country, pointed out Deputy Kelly.
“It’s an intolerable situation to be left in.”
Deputy Kelly said the Mid West has been unfairly targeted for cutbacks. A report recently drawn up has shown the disproportionate effect on North Tipperary. “There is a commitment to re-calibrate the budgets in the area. We cannot have a situation where hospitals that are in budget are being punished.”
Deputy Michael Lowry said the beds should never have been closed. “One the proudest days I’ve had as a politician, was when we managed to open a new purpose-built Hospital of the Assumption.
“It pains me and demoralises me to see that beautiful new facility with doors shut, and bed covers taken off, particularly when there is such a need and demand from older people.
“It is illogical, and defies any kind of policy.” Deputy Lowry said the Minister understood, as a medical practitioner, the urgency of re-opening the facility. “I want to pubicly say that we listened to the commitment he gave us.
“And I can assure you we will insist on that commitment being honoured, and on that facility being restored. It is incredible to think that a county the size of Tipperary has only four respite beds.
“There are 406 people waiting for respite care. It’s a scandal and a shame,” added Deputy Lowry.
Deputy Noel Coonan said he had been following through on commitments made to him, culminating in the meeting with Minister Reilly.
“Arising out of that meeting, the Minister gave a firm commitment, as firm a commitment as I’ve seen of any Minister in power at any stage, that he was very much in agreement with policies you share.
“He said quite clearly that the place for people in North Tipperary to get treatment was in North Tipperary. He is definitely committed to not only restoring the services that are in the Hospital of Assumption, but the six or seven beds that were closed in the good times as well. And to put more services in physiotherapy as well.
“Our work is not done. We have to keep the pressure on.” Deputy Coonan added that he was confident a second meeting with the Minister would not be necessary at the end of January, by which time the beds will be re-opened.