Monaghan maternity services threat resisted
A threat to end maternity services at Monaghan General Hospital was averted at Monday's meeting of the North Eastern Health Board (NEHB). The Board did not accept closure recommendations after strong opposition emerged to the move, which would adversely affect mothers and children in County Monaghan and beyond.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, who is a member of the NEHB, urged total rejection of the closure recommendation. The NEHB meeting stopped short of this but did not accept the closure proposals and agreed to commission further exploration of the issue. Ó Caoláin descibed this as a ``temporary reprieve - the battle must go on''. He pointed out that the Report recommending closure has not explored the cross-border aspect of the issue and this must form a central part of any review of services in the region which comprises Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath.
The NEHB-commissioned report also sought the diminution of maternity service at Dundalk from consultant-led to midwife-led status, which Deputy Ó Caoláin also opposed.
Speaking in the Dáil on Wednesday night, 22 November, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin pledged total opposition to the threatened closure of maternity services at Monaghan General. He said:
``The Report of the Condon Review Group has provoked widespread dismay and anger throughout County Monaghan and beyond. We are faced with proposals for closure of key services at Monaghan General Hospital, proposals which must be resisted.
The people of County Monaghan successfully campaigned against the closure of their hospital and have for long been working to ensure that this vital health facility is not only maintained but expanded. Now the members of the North Eastern Health Board are to be asked to discontinue a key element of the health infrastructure of the Region - the maternity services at Monaghan General Hospital.
``As a member of the Health Board I am strenuously opposing this threatened closure of an essential service for mothers and children. A party colleague of mine, Councillor Brenda McAnespie, three of whose five children were born in Monaghan Hospital, posed the question at a meeting last night: ``Have the people who drew up this report considered the extra strain and expense for mothers of having to travel those extra miles to and from hospital and clinic visits both before and after delivery?'' The Minister needs to ask those questions also.
``The threatened closure is an issue not just for the people of County Monaghan but for the citizens and elected representatives of our entire region, comprising Counties Cavan, Monaghan, Louth and Meath. A reduction of service in any part of the region reduces health provision for everyone in the region.
``I have today, with the other Oireachtas representatives from Counties Cavan and Monaghan, met the Minister for Health and Children Mícheál Martin in Government Buildings and expressed the strongest opposition to this proposal and urged his direct intervention. I repeat that call for intervention here. I have to say that our subsequent meeting with the North Eastern Health Board Executive was very unsatisfactory. Those representatives showed an inflexibility and an unwillingness to address the concerns of the community whose service is now threatened.
``In this situation, the Minister's role is now vital.
``I appeal also to all members of the North Eastern Health Board to oppose the proposal to close the Monaghan Hospital Maternity Department. This is not an issue of hospital against hospital or county against county. Diverse political opinion has united in the effort to save this service.
``Having worked diligently for many years to support and enhance the dedicated service provided by the staff at Monaghan General Hospital to our community, I again pledge my total commitment to this vital health facility.''