THURLES Town Council suspended the normal order of business on Monday night to again fight for the return of beds at the Hospital of the Assumption. Some Councillors slammed what they saw as inaction from North Tipperary’s two government TDs.
Cllr Jim Ryan said it was the most important issue facing the town. Unfortunately, there had been “broken promises” made by Deputy Noel Coonan at a recent public meeting in the Tipperary Institute, who clearly stated the return of beds within a three-week period. Subsequent to that, Hospital of the Assumption staff and the HSE clarified that no such money will be made available. “Deputy Coonan clearly misled the people. He gave them false hope. This issue needs to be cleared up. Over 400 people are waiting... they’re going through hell. What is the Fine Gael position regarding the Hospital beds?” demanded Cllr Ryan. Minister Alan Kelly “did not have the decency” to turn up at a recent rally to save the hospital, added Cllr Ryan. “What are Fine Gael and Labour doing? We all deserve an answer.”
Cllr John Kennedy said he had been in sensitive discussions with HSE Manager Bernard Gloster, regarding potential funding for re-opening some of the beds. “I was told that money would come to North Tipp,” said Cllr Kennedy. The HSE had however decided “in their wisdom” to spend some E275,000 on public nursing homes. “I am disappointed that is happening,” said Cllr Kennedy. “I see every day the lack of beds.. It’s not for want of pressure from me. I have written to the Minister. I will stay fighting, it will not be easy because of the times we are in. Rest assured, it will not be from a lack of trying from me.”
Cllr David Doran said it was on the tip of everybody’s tongue. “The people of Thurles are very patient and resilient.” There had been a lot of false dawns since the last rally to save the hospital beds, which was well attended by the people of Thurles. Sinn Féin Dáil Leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin had come down from Cavan to attend, while Fianna Fáil Fáil Spokesperson on Health, Billy Kelleher TD, had come up from Cork. “At least Deputy Coonan turned up,” said Cllr Doran. “Alan Kelly could not even come across the fields from Nenagh. It’s all about priorities. People out there are at their wits’ end. People are going through hardship, and the Government has turned their back on them. I am calling on Noel Coonan and Alan Kelly to back the people of Thurles, or the government, in Dáil Eireann. It’s as clear cut as that.”
Cllr Kennedy said Alan Kelly had had to attend another meeting in Nenagh that night. Cllr John Kenehan said we have one of the fastest aging populations in Europe, and the money for the nursing homes was also necessary. “From my contacts with Alan Kelly, he is in constant contact with HSE officials. He is doing everything in his power to make that happen. He had indicated that he would not be able to attend, and had a previous engagement.” Minister Kelly had clarified his position the next day, added Cllr Kenehan.
Cllr Noel O’Dwyer said E700,000 would re-open the beds. “They have E275,000 to mess around with respite care and nursing homes, when you have a Hospital up there which needs the money. Mr Gloster and his ilk at the higher echelons of the HSE, who are on E100,000 per year - if you could get rid of some of those people you could re-open the Hospital.” I0t’s time for local TDs to “get their teeth into it” added Cllr O’Dwyer.
Cllr Michael Grogan said some Town Councillors were only “trying to make headlines.” “Whatever Coonan did, it was very foolish.” But Councillors will not get the beds back by trying to score “political gains.” “You don’t just call people names, and then call him back the next day asking him for money,” said Cllr Grogan.
Minister Alan Kelly said it was “cheap political point scoring “ on behalf of Cllr Ryan and Cllr Doran, who knew exactly why he couldn’t be there on the night.
“Cllr Ryan and Cllr Doran should respect the facts. They know full well that I contacted the committee a month and a half prior to the event. I had a prior engagment with the North Tipperary Enterprise Awards that night. I felt obliged to respect that engagement, considering the role those businesses play in North Tipperary and the amount of people they employ, both in Thurles and across the County.
“I wrote a letter to the Chairperson of the Committee, which was not read out on the night, and I spoke to the Chairperson beforehand.“ Minister Kelly also said he spoke to the Childen’s Minister Kathleen Lynch to discuss the issue, and rang the Committee afterwards to outline his position.