Thousands to protest Hanly plan

THOUSANDS of protesters opposed to plans for the downgrading of local hospitals are expected to converge on Nenagh, Co Tipperary, today.

Consultants, doctors, nurses and members of the public will take part in a rally against the likely selection of Nenagh General Hospital as a trial

location for implementation of the controversial Hanly proposals, which recommends the centralisation of acute hospital services to "centres of excellence".

Nenagh Hospital Action Group chairman Paul Malone said the implementation of Hanly would effectively reduce Nenagh to "a first-aid outpost open from 8am-8pm".

"The end result would be that in time, people would bypass Nenagh and it would follow the fate of Tuam Hospital reduced to nothing but a carpark," Mr Malone said.

The people of Nenagh want local access to acute hospital services they do not want to travel to the large teaching hospitals, where A&E services were already at breaking-point and where bed availability was at a minimum, he said.

The action group has not ruled out running candidates in next year's local elections if the Government persisted plans to downgrade Nenagh, he said.

Senator Kathleen O'Meara, also a member of the action group, said they were expecting anti-Hanly campaigners to travel from Ennis, Mallow, Ballinasloe, Cavan and Monaghan to the rally.

Dr John Barton, consultant physician and cardiologist at Portiuncula Hospital, in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, will attend the rally because he believes Hanly is "fundamentally flawed".

"It proposes doing what the NHS did in the UK over the years, damage that they are now trying to reverse. Those in authority in the UK now recognise that we need to keep small hospitals open, that we have an aging population and that over-65s want to be looked after in their own communities.

Members of the Irish Nurses Organisation from all over the midwest will join the fight to maintain local services.

Defence Minister Michael Smith, whose constituency is in Nenagh, and who has already drawn the ire of the Taoiseach for questioning the local effects of Hanly, refused to say if he will be at the rally.

The rally, at the Courthouse in Banba Square in the town centre, will follow a march which leaves the hospital carpark at 2pm. Later tonight, in Dublin, a meeting to set up a National Steering Committee to harness opposition to Hanly will take place at the Abbey Court Hotel in Dublin.

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