UP to 15,000 people marched in Ennis in November 2003 to oppose the proposed downgrading of Ennis Hospital, which was recommended in the controversial Hanly Report.
Last Saturday, a paltry figure of about 70 people turned up to listen to members of the Mid-West Hospital Campaign present a case for the return of a fully functioning Accident and Emergency Department to Ennis and Nenagh Hospitals.
A lot of public representatives also decided to stay away. The attendance included Deputy Cathal Crowe, Deputy Joe Carey, Senator Timmy Dooley, Councillor Mark Nestor and Councillor Donna McGettigan.
Despite the poor turnout, one of the main organisers, Noeleen Moran, was satisfied with the attendance when questioned by the Clare Champion.
“We are getting this campaign up and running after two years of lockdown. It is not an easy thing to encourage people to be in crowds after Covid-19 but we are satisfied with the turnout today.
“We only spent two weeks advertising this protest. When we organised a march in Limerick, we spent three months organising that march.”
Addressing the crowd, she stressed that people in the Mid-West matter, she warned that people will no longer tolerate the level of overcrowding in UHL.
“We have every right to feel aggrieved and none of this is right. Closing the emergency departments in Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s was wrong and it should never have happened.
“There were 126 patients on trolleys and chairs in UHL on April 26 this year. This broke all national records and UHL’s previous record in February of 111 patients.
“Where is this going to end? Trolley figures are more than just numbers, they are real people. This could happen to any one of our family members.
“Enough is enough, reverse the closures,” she declared.
Ms Moran said Clare needs a proper 24-hour Accident and Emergency Service to cater for the health needs of the county.
Following the removal of around-the-clock casualty cover from Ennis, Nenagh and St John’s Hospitals in April 2019, she said too many people were dependant on one hospital in Limerick – University Hospital Limerick (UHL).
“You don’t have to be an expert to recognise that UHL can’t cope with this. We were promised a centre of excellence but what we got instead was a hospital (UHL) that is in crisis 24-7.”
“We got a hospital where patients are not getting the service they deserve and even more seriously where lives are being put at risk.
“UHL is understaffed and health care workers are under pressure from the start to the end of their working day. Is it any wonder we have difficulty recruiting and retaining staff at UHL?”
She callled it “disgraceful” to leave patients and overworked health care staff in these conditions. When UHL experiences high levels of overcrowding, she recalled the HSE often advises members of the public to use alternative models of care.
“What alternatives are there? The Minor Injury Unit in Ennis Hospital is a great facility but it closes at 8pm. Shannondoc – the out-of-hours GP service – is being greatly scaled back due to GP shortages and is heavily reliant on locums to stay afloat. If you get sick out-of-hours, there are no alternatives but to attend UHL.”
“The reopening of Ennis Emergency Department has been consistently sidelined and ruled out, but despite all the promises to address the crisis in UHL the situation has only got worse.
“We demand proper healthcare for Clare people. We demand the ED in Ennis be reopened and we stand with families in Nenagh and Limerick who are calling for the same.
“During the Covid-19 pandemic the Government took extraordinary and prompt measures to deal with the crisis and rightly so.
“Why don’t they recognise the seriousness of the situation in the Mid-West and respond accordingly to deal with the crisis?
“The quickest and most effective way is to reopen the ED in Ennis and Nenagh. If the level of overcrowding was happening in Dublin, we have no doubt that action would be taken.”