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War over hospital’s future

y AT ODDSCllrs Frank Durcan (left) and Cllr Brendan Henaghan pictured with Cllr Henaghan’s son.
Cllrs Frank Durcan (left) and Cllr Brendan Henaghan pictured with Cllr Henaghan’s son Tom after Cllr Henaghan was elected in 2004 when Frank Durcan, who didn’t run that time, canvassed for him. However the pair were at odds during last Thursday’s meeting of Castlebar Town Council.?Pic: Michael Donnelly

Councillors at war over hospital future

Edwin McGreal

A controversial war of words has broken out between a number of Castlebar town councillors over the future of Mayo General Hospital.
Last Thursday night’s monthly meeting of the authority ended in acrimony with several councillors on their feet and screaming at each other for over fifteen minutes during a debate on the hospital.
Cllr Michael Kilcoyne lodged a motion to the council that ‘this council condemns the failure of the Government to put in place the necessary funding which would have ensured that the services at Mayo General Hospital would not have been reduced’.
He called for the closed wards to be reopened, that a closed theatre is reopened and, among other things, the ‘necessary nursing staff are employed immediately’ at the hospital.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Kilcoyne lashed out at the MRSA problem in the maternity ward in the hospital and called for decisive action.
Cllr Frank Durcan seconded the motion and said that he had ‘information’ that a Galway Mayo Roscommon hospital board had been formed’ under the direction of Minister of Health Dr James Reilly and that there was no Mayo General Hospital representative on this board.
He said this indicated that Mayo General was becoming a mere clinic and that the accident and emergency ward would close next, he speculated. He was asked to let other councillors in to speak on the issue by Mayor Brendan Henaghan but refused to take his seat, describing the motion as one of the most serious in the history of the council. Cllr Eugene McCormack was on his feet to speak and Cllr Durcan accused the Mayor of bias towards his party colleague by not letting Cllr Durcan continue.

‘Thundering disgrace’

Cllr Henaghan called Cllr Durcan ‘a thundering disgrace’ while Cllr Durcan described Cllr Henaghan as ‘the worst chairman I’ve ever seen’. Cllr Ger Deere called Cllr Durcan a ‘scaremongerer’ while Cllr Kilcoyne said that he expected the councillors would ‘act like adults’ on such a motion.
Cllr Harry Barrett said that it was ‘an insult to local democracy’ that no other councillors were allowed to speak on the motion.
The meeting was adjourned.
Fed up with negativity’
However speaking to The Mayo News the next day, Cllr Eugene McCormack said he was ‘fed up with the continuous negativity by certain councillors regarding Mayo General Hospital’. He claimed that many of the stories were ‘often misinformed or plain wrong’.
“It is having a negative effect on the morale of staff and patients. There’s no question the hospital is under pressure. It lost €6 million in its budget and is dealing with more patients since the closure of Roscommon hospital. The staff recruitment moratorium hasn’t helped either,” said Cllr McCormack.
However he said there were positive stories too. He cited the medical assessment unit which was reported to be under threat of closure but had now ‘an enhanced service’ and mentioned the recruitment of a consultant dealing in endocrinology, the €1.8 million renal dialysis unit, digital imaging of x-rays, the medical academy and said that a cystic fibrosis day service was close to coming to fruition after fundraising of €800,000.

However Sinn Fein Cllr Therese Ruane, speaking after Thursday’s meeting, said that the future was very bleak for the hospital and for the Sacred Heart Hospital in the town.
“Mayo General Hospital and The Sacred Heart Home are in crisis. Our health service is in tatters as funding for frontline services is being severely cut. It’s clear given the scale of the cuts in the HSE that services in Mayo General Hospital will be decimated. Hospitals are turning to desperate measures to cope, sending patients home early and closing wards.
“Staff in Mayo General Hospital tell me that the hospital is already under severe strain and that patient care will suffer and people’s lives put at risk as a result of the latest cuts. Our local TDs are standing over these cuts. Shame on them,” she said.

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