VIDEO: ‘We’re not closing anything, we are expanding services’

Taoiseach Micheál Martin took issue with the suggestion of a ‘downgrading’ A&E services at Navan Hospital but said Government will take medical and clinical advice in respect of “optimal configuration” of hospitals and that decisions will need to reflect the growth of Navan and the north east

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said the Government is committed to expanding health services in the Northeast and that they were "not closing anything" in respect of ongoing fears surrounding the future of Navan Hospital.

Speaking during a visit to Navan on Monday where he spent time with local retailers and business people before going on to officially open a social housing development in the town, Mr Martin (below) said the priority was ensuring the best outcomes for patients.

"If you look at where Navan was 10 years ago to where it is today in terms of employment for example, it's higher today than it would have been back then. And the overall issue in terms of health is, where do we get the best outcomes in terms of a person's illness or a person's condition or an accident, what is the best outcome for that person?"

Navan Hospital, he said, is part of a wider set of hospitals and services needed to reflect changing population and demographics.

"We're not closing anything. We're expanding services. We take the medical advice, we take the clinical advice in respect of the optimal configuration of hospitals, but the Northeast is growing and demographically it's growing and the health services will grow in this area to reflect that."

Asked if the pause Health Minister Stephen Donnelly had placed on HSE plans to downgrade services at Navan could be a permanent removal Mr Martin said: "I take issue with the word downgrade. I think we need to move on from that genuinely and I've been through this as a former minister of health across the country. And we just need to look at this in a much more forward looking way that provides the best health care for people when they most need it, and in a timely manner. We can never lose sight of that and to make sure we get the best outcomes for people and we have to be sensible, considering this is a large urban centre."

Two weeks ago nearly 10,000 took to the streets of Navan to protest at HSE plans to downgrade Navan A&E and ICU units - where there are four ICU beds - replacing it with a Medical Assessment Unit and a Local Injuries Unit which would only open to the public for minor injuries 12-hours a day.

A delegation of Meath TDs seeking assurances on the future of Navan hospital had a meeting with Health Minister Stephen Donnelly cancelled at the last minute last Wednesday.

SIPTU Meath District Council said it was also seeking a meeting with Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Our Lady’s Hospital and the threat to A&E services.

SIPTU Meath District Council secretary, John Regan, said: “We wrote to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, on Monday, 15th November, seeking a meeting with him at his earliest convenience.”

SIPTU Meath District Council chairman, Anton McCabe, said: “It is widely reported that accident and emergency departments across the country are experiencing issues of overcrowding, under staffing and patients being left on trollies. This situation is being made more acute by the ongoing pandemic and it is not acceptable for the Minister and HSE to continue with plans that will make this bad situation even worse.”