Campaign groups have reacted angrily to reports that the gynaecology ward at Letterkenny General Hospital in Co Donegal is to close.
It is understood the HSE is planning to remove or relocate the unit as part of a strategy to staff a new medical wing at the hospital.
Staff at the ward were told on Friday by the hospital’s director of nursing, Dr Ann Flood, of plans to shut or transfer the unit next month.
The HSE has confirmed that options to deploy staffing resources for the new hospital wing are being explored.
The plans have been met with disbelief by nursing unions, patients, staff and political representatives.
They say the unit operates perfectly well and claim the relocation will threaten patients’ privacy.
The female-only unit treats women who have miscarried and also deals with sensitive issues such as hidden pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections.
It offers a “walk in” facility for women in early pregnancy to assure them of the health of their babies. On average, up to twenty women a day avail of this service.
Women having surgery for breast, ovarian, cervical and other cancers have a safe haven in the gynaecology ward to recuperate in a female-only environment.
Manager of Letterkenny General Hospital, Sean Murphy, has acknowledged that a restructuring of the gynaecology ward is being considered.
He said he could not give any guarantees on female- only nurses at any new gynaecology facility at the new medial wing.
“We are actively looking at how we could relocate the gynaecology services to other surgical wards to relieve staff to allow us to move into the new medical block,” he said.
“We are not looking to undermine the gynaecology services but we have to look at the options we are looking at. We are looking to relocate the beds from one part of the hospital to another.”
According to a group who have set up a Facebook campaign to keep the unit open, the imminent closure will mean patients will be in a mixed sex ward. More than 1,000 people have backed the campaign since it launched last Friday night.
Donegal North-East TD, Pádraig MacLochlainn (SF), said the reported closure of the ward was “an attack on women’s dignity”.
“This ward has rightly been described as a safe haven for women who have suffered the pain of miscarriage as well as providing a female-only environment of support for women undergoing surgeries such as hysterectomies, bladder repairs and all the female cancers.
“We stand with the women of this county against what is an attack on their dignity at a time of distress.”
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