Nationwide group to fight Hanly Report

A NEW nationwide pressure group to resist the highly controversial Hanly Report on health service reform has been established.

The report has recommended that certain hospital services be centralised, which would leave some smaller country hospitals without Accident & Emergency and other services.

The new national organisation is intent on restoring, retaining and developing general hospital services all over the country.

On Saturday, more than 12,000 people demonstrated over the planned down-grading of Nenagh, Co Tipperary, General Hospital.

Defence Minister Michael Smith, who had criticised the report, was absent from the protest.

The protest was joined by Fianna Fáil TD, Máire Hoctor, who had originally supported the report.

Ms Hoctor insisted, however, that she attended the protest, not because she was opposed to the report, but because she wanted to represent the concerns of people in the area.

The protest was also attended by Labour Leader, Pat Rabbitte, and a number of local and national politicians.

After the protest, eight hospital action groups and the Acute Hospitals Medical Group agreed to form an interim national steering committee to fight the Hanly Report proposals.

The group was particularly critical of a proposal to remove secondary patient care, now being provided at general hospitals, a central plank of the report.

They warned that lives could be lost if that happened.

The new interim committee will meet in Athlone, Co Westmeath, on Thursday, December 11.

Meanwhile, two Fianna Fáil TDs said they would be opposed to any move to downgrade Wexford General Hospital.

Tom Dempsey, who won a Fianna Fáil seat for the first time in the last General Election, said he did not believe the hospital would be downgraded. He would be opposed to any such move.

Minister of State John Browne, said he believed that with the expanding local population, as well as the seasonal influx of visitors, there was a strong case for expanding the hospital's services.

Mr Browne said he did not expect Wexford to be targeted in the plan to reform hospital services for the reasons he had outlined, particularly when the hospital was already over-stretched.

The hospital's medical clinical director Dr Paddy McKiernan, said he feared the report could result in the hospital's closure.

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