By Evelyn Ring
A PUBLIC inquiry into the quality of hospital care in the north-east is expected to be held at the end of April.
The inquiry was established by Monaghan Community Alliance to allow people to tell how the downgrading of Monaghan General Hospital has affected them.
The campaign group has spent two weeks gathering stories from GPs and patients. All of the submissions made will be included in a book of evidence that will be presented to a team of Dublin solicitors hired by the group.
It hopes to prove that health services provided in the region are not patient-centred and do not give equal access to acute care.
Chairman Peadar McMahon said it was now very obvious from the evidence that the downgrading of the hospital has had a very negative effect on patients and their families.
Mr McMahon said they hoped to have a two-day public hearing in Monaghan at the end of April, at which three independent health experts will scrutinise the evidence.
The inquiry’s three-person panel - a legal expert, medical expert and lay person, yet to be announced - will draw up a report that will be submitted to the Tánaiste and Minister for Health Mary Harney and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.
Their report is expected to be completed four weeks after the public inquiry and will be published.
In a report in the latest issue of the Irish Medical Times, Mr McMahon said their evidence contradicts the claim being made that the policies being pursued are in the interest of patient safety and to provide them with a better quality of care.
"It is becoming clearer to us that the people to gain from these reforms will be the consultants, who specialise and can attract big fees from patients," he said.
The son of Patrick Walsh, who died last October in Monaghan Hospital, has submitted evidence to Mr McMahon’s group.
Mr Walsh, aged 75, died because the surgery he required was unavailable at the hospital after 5pm and a bed could not be found for him at hospitals in Cavan and Drogheda.
The Health Service Executive’s inquiry into Mr Walsh’s death was to take eight weeks from October 14 last but it now appears that it will not be available until sometime in April.
Mr McMahon said: "We are hoping the HSE’s report will be published before the public inquiry because it will have a certain bearing on our work as well."