GALLERY: Were you among the protesters taking part in the Save Navan Hospital rally?

Between 8-10,000 people took to the streets of Navan yesterday in a show of strength in support of Navan Hospital.

The colourful crowd, many dressed in the colours of sporting teams, and including underground workers from Tara Mines and local community groups marched from the Trim Road, through the town to the Fairgreen, Ludlow Street, Trimgate Street and up Brews Hill, where the government was warned that if the closure of the A&E goes ahead, it would cost them dearly.

Photographer Seamus Farrelly walked with the crowd from Meath Enterprise Centre to the rallying point on Brews Hill...Were you among the crowd?

“Under no circumstances whatsoever, will the people of Meath tolerate any further closure or reductions of services at our hospital or A&E,” warned Deputy Peadar Toibin, chair of the Save Navan Hospital campaign.

“We don’t want a stay of execution. We demand the end to all threats to out hospital.”

Dr Ruairi Hanley recalled that over the last 20 months the staff of Navan Hospital had dealt with “a pandemic that shook the world.”

“They saved so many lives in the A&E and the ICU.”

He said that only for the hospital, “We would have people dying on trolleys far from home or suffocating in the back of ambulances.

“If the HSE had their way, none of the good work Navan Hospital did during the pandemic, would have happened.”

“Over the last 20 months, the head honchos in the HSE were sitting at home, watching Netflix while the staff at the hospital were saving lives.

“Now that those beauties are back behind their desks after the pandemic, this is what is happening,” he said.

The rally was organised by the Save Navan Hospital Campaign because of fresh concerns that the current 24-hour A&E service will be replaced with a medical assessment unit.

Deputy Toibin said; “Navan Hospital, our A&E and its ICU are a life and death issue. It is the most important piece of Infrastructure we have in this county. I’d bet you that there is only a hand full of people here today who have never been in our hospital or A&E.

“I know of a football player who was taken from Páirc Tailteann, hardly able to breath, to the A&E who was saved with only minutes to live. I know of people who had heart attacks, respiratory blockages, brain haemorrhages, burst appendix, falls from ladders and cancer tumours, who are alive today because of the work that the was done by the staff.

“There are thousands of people who are walking the streets of our towns today because of that hospital. It has been there for us when we needed it and the HSE would do well to learn that we will be there when it needs us.”

Deputy Johnny Guirke described the HSE proposals to close A&E and ICU as “obscene.”

Recalling a similar threat in 2011 he asked how many lives would have been lost if the government got their way in 2011 and closed the A&E and ICU?

“Only for the vigilance and the vigorous campaigning of the good people of Meath, they would have forced through a decision that would have resulted in countless deaths to make supposed savings on a departmental spreadsheet

“Only a government without a conscience and detached from ordinary people could propose a hospital downgrade of essential services in the middle of an ongoing pandemic that is far from over.

“I have a message for Minister Donnelly. As of today, this campaign will continue to ramp up until the people of Meath and the staff and users of Our Lady’s hospital are given certainty about continued services.

“And I have a message for all local TDs, you need to show some backbone and demand better for your constituents.”

John Regan of SIPTU warned the government politicians and ministers that the people will have their say at the next election.

“We will not accept political waffle. It is time to stand up and be counted as failure to maintain all the current services in OLH as a minimum, is the only option for our politicians.

“The numbers that are here today demonstrates the huge solidarity we have in Co Meath. Are you watching and listening Minister Donnelly - you and your friends in the HSE - the faceless people that make questionable decisions that affect the daily lives of families. Shame on you all,” he said.

Senator Shane Cassells over the past 11 years, there were three major rallies in support of the hospital because of the threats hanging over it.

“Equally, there was a community standing here saying no in defiance.

“This is our community, our town and our hospital. I will defend it to the hilt,” he said.

He pointed out that the North East Doctor on Call service had publicly stated that a GP led Medical Assessment Unit replacing A&E would not be in the public interest.

Senator Cassells recalled that at the previous rally eleven years ago, former Minister, Dr James Reilly had promised he would build the new regional hospital in Navan if he was Minisiter for Health.

“The cattle are still grazing where that hospital was supposed to have been built.”

Cllr Elaine McGinty said there was nothing more valuable that the health service workers who put themselves in harms way during the pandemic.

“To honour them we need more public beds and services, not cuts.

“As we face into a critical winter, we do not want to make it worse.

“Support, the workers, support the patients, keep Navan Hospital open,” she said.