Protesters keep candles burning for health services

More than 1,000 protesters have held a vigil of light at Waterford Regional Hospital, to protest against a feared loss of services.

The men, women and children of all ages proceeded to walk around the main hospital building on Saturday evening in a symbolic gesture aimed at demonstrating their determination to protect health facilities in the region.

They carried candles, torches and glow-sticks to form a vigil of light on a date traditionally given over to Christmas shopping. The procession came amid ongoing speculation that the southeast hospital network may be broken up by the Government with, many fear, a consequent loss in services from Waterford, to Cork and Dublin.

The event was organised by the Save Waterford lobby group, which drew up to 15,000 people onto the streets of the city for a protest march last month.

“Nothing is certain at the moment,” Save Waterford co-founder Gillian Corcoran said at the vigil.

“There’s an expert report after going to [health] Minister Reilly and we just want to be sure that the southeast hospital network will be left alone.”

Concerns have been raised about Waterford Regional Hospital losing its status as one of the country’s eight centres of excellence for cancer care and other services such as cardiac care and trauma, in the event of it being aligned with Cork University Hospital.

It’s also believed the report, written by an expert group chaired by Professor John Higgins of UCC, recommends the general hospitals in Wexford and Kilkenny being paired with teaching hospitals in Dublin.

However, the report is up for consideration by Dr James Reilly and his cabinet colleagues and no decision has yet been made.

One protester on Saturday, John Grant from Cathal Brugha St in Waterford, was unable to walk with the others because of his medical condition but was keen to support the cause. “I only left here a couple of weeks ago,” he said of the hospital. “I spent three weeks there and five weeks in St Patrick’s Hospital. I have to use a frame to walk, that’s why I’m sitting down here,” he said as he was joined by his grand- daughters to watch the procession.

“Waterford is getting unfairly treated compared to any other city,” Mr Grant said. “They’re denying old people and children proper health facilities. The staff are always wonderful there. It’s the HSE that’s the problem.”

Gillian Corcoran said organisers were “thrilled” with the turnout. “People wanted to say ‘we’re still here and not happy with the situation with the hospital’,” she said.


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