Ballina public march to save hospital beds
Ballina residents of all ages took to the streets on Sunday last in opposition to the closure of hospital beds in the town. According to Ballina Trades Council chairman Matt Farrell, over 1,700 people came out to voice their unhappiness about controversial proposals in the new HSE National Service Plan to close more than a dozen beds.
The five locally elected TDs in the constituency were invited to attend the march, and Deputy John O’Mahony, Deputy Michelle Mulherin and Deputy Dara Calleary spoke with attendees and heard their concerns.
Speakers included Rosemary Armstrong, chairperson of Ballina Active Retirement; Des McAndrew of Friends of St Joseph’s Hospital; and Cathal O’Shea of Ballina Mental Health Association. Caith Murray and Mary Keane spoke earnestly about the concerns of the wider community in relation to the bed closures.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Matt Farrell said “We are committed to maintaining the maximum level of services for our community and also our jobs at our hospital. This will effect the very vulnerable people and people with psychiatric illnesses and other major problems.”
Mr Farrell said he believes the 13 bed closures at St Joseph’s District Hospital and the immediate threat to ten beds at Ballina Psychiatric Unit and further beds at St Augustine’s will result in a highly detrimental and alarming situation for patients and their families.
“When I sit down and study the new service plan by Dr James Reilly I can’t believe what I’m reading,” said Mr Farrell. “He is going to save €750 million and 550 beds are to be closed in hospitals. As well as that more than 1,600 staff are going to be lost by the end of next month, and disability funding is going to be slashed by €35 million.”
Mr Farrell believes Minister for Health James Reilly’s proposal is misguided. “We can’t tell [The HSE] how to provide a service, but it is obvious that if any business or company was run in such a way they would go in to voluntary liquidation.”
Another proposal which Mr Farrell said will have serious ramifications is the proposal to close Ballina Psychiatric Residential Unit at the end of February. This measure would force individuals and their families to travel to Mayo General Hospital. “A Ballina man with a psychiatric illness rang in to RTÉ’s Joe Duffy show recently and said he will be forced to travel to Castlebar for treatment. If you have a problem and you are vulnerable and need treatment you should be encouraged to seek treatment. However, this man said he had no way of getting to Castlebar and it is likely his treatment will be compromised,” Mr Farrell explained.
“We are known as a caring country and we provide charity for people all over the world and now we cannot even look after our own people,” he addded