VIDEO: People saved by Navan Hospital demand Health Minister permanently ditch HSE plans to close A&E services

Louise Walsh

'Navan hospital saved my life' was the assertion of many in the crowds of up to 10,000 people who took part in a monster rally against the proposed downgrading of services at the Co. Meath centre.

Ironically one lady at the protest needed treatment at Our Lady's Hospital when she became ill at the event, staged only minutes away from the facility.

Tony Coogan (66) from Dunderry had only left a county final at Pairc Tailteann in Navan in 2009 when he collapsed in the back of a jeep, after suffering a heart attack.

"I walked out of the game feeling fine and shortly after, I was gone," he said.

"Thankfully the hospital was only a minute away from the grounds but medics couldn't find a pulse when I arrived at A&E.

"They had to give me four goes of the jump leads (defibrillator) before I came out of it. I was stabilised and transferred straight to the Mater Hospital in Dublin for a quadruple bypass.

Tony Coogan had only left a county final at Pairc Tailteann in Navan in 2009 when he collapsed in the back of a jeep, after suffering a heart attack.

"The staff at Our Lady's Hospital saved my life. If the A&E had been closed, I'd be dead. As it is, I was very lucky that I didn't suffer heart or brain damage from it.

"To downgrade more services there is a real two fingers up to both the staff and the people of Meath. I have to say, I was very emotional when I saw the crowds ahead of me and behind me coming out in support of their hospital at the march."

Rose Nelson (85) from Navan has been relying on the hospital since she contracted TB when she was 18, which left her suffering from regular bouts of pneumonia.

"Mam wanted to march for her hospital today so I brought her out in the wheelchair," said her daughter Sharon.

"She suffers from heart and lung problems and we would depend on the hospital about five times during the winter to deal with pneumonia and sudden drops in her oxygen levels.

Rose Nelson

"There is no way we would make it to any other hospital, which is only three minutes away from us. She would be dead if it wasn't for its services

"If they close the A&E and the intensive care unit, they are going to let elderly people die. It's that simple."

Rose agreed saying: "The hospital saved my life a good few times and the staff have always been good to me and looked after me well."

Sharon said she had to get medical assistance for a lady who became unwell at the protest and who was brought the short distance from the rally to the hospital.

"A lady came to me feeling faint so thankfully there was a doctor and nurse at the rally to give her immediate assistance before she was taken up the road to the hospital by the Red Cross. I believe she was fine and discharged that evening but the fact is, she didn't have to wait for an ambulance to bring her to another centre miles away."

Meanwhile Rose Healy (74) from Athboy said her family were prepared for the worst when she collapsed in the facility's A&E last year.

"I was ten minutes in the A&E when I passed out and woke up a few days later in intensive care on a ventilator," said the former ten-time Dublin marathon runner.

"My family were in a heap, they didn't know whether to get ready for a funeral as the medics didn't think I'd make it. Due to Covid-19, they couldn't even visit.

"The care that those nurses and doctors gave me was just fantastic. They'd often sit down beside me and have the chats.

"I had to have a cardiac ablation in Dublin and I'm fine now but only for Navan hospital. I live ten minutes away from Navan and I was only ten minutes there when I collapsed. I would never have made a hospital in Drogheda or Dublin.

WATCH BACK...Speakers address the Save Navan Hospital Rally...

"People care about Our Lady's Hospital. They have fundraised tens of thousands for equipment there over the years. They won't let it go without a heck of a fight."

In recent weeks, fresh concerns were raised about the future of the hospital after a letter was circulated by the HSE and Ireland East Hospital Group confirming the planned downgrade of the hospital's emergency department and the axing of the Intensive Care unit.

The rally last Saturday by the Save Navan Hospital Campaign went ahead despite the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly recently instructing the HSE to pause plans for reconfiguring services.

Chair of the campaign group Peadar Toibin told the crowds: "Under no circumstances whatsoever will the people of Meath tolerate any further closure or reduction of services at our hospital."