Longford’s economic future is being placed in grave danger because of continued cutbacks at St Joseph’s Care Centre, writes Liam Cosgrove.
That was the claim made by Fine Gael Cllr Peggy Nolan responding to the reporter closure of the facility’s General Medical Clinic.
The outspoken health campaigner said she was still trying to fathom a decision she maintained had been made by HSE bosses earlier this summer.
“This was all done in June and July when people were away on holidays which meant nobody knew anything about it,” she said.
Last week, a meeting of Longford’s Municipal District was told by Cllr Nolan the medical centre which had been used for consultantancy appointments, had shut its doors for the last time.
The Leader carried the claims in last week’s edition and attempted, without success, to secure an official response from HSE officials.
The best part of a week on, Cllr Nolan said the move was just the latest in a long line of cutbacks St Joseph’s and its dedicated staff have had to withstand over the past 18 months.
“Longford is being used to balance the Midland Regional Budget, it’s as simple as that,” she raged.
“If there are cuts to be made, they (HSE) will always look to Longford to make them.”
And despite her political ties to Fine Gael, Cllr Nolan had strong words too for the slogan first introduced by former Minister for Health and now Children’s Minister James Reilly.
“The money is supposed to follow the patient, but now patients are running all around the midlands trying to follow the consultants,” she said.
Aside from the immediate impact the clinic’s closure will have on patients living locally, Cllr Nolan said its withdrawal could open the floodgates for further cutbacks.
“I was one of those who fought for a new radiology facility in St Joseph’s which meant x-rays could be sent to any hospital in Ireland and read.
“I’m concerned if the radiologist that’s there now retires, will that be removed also?”
In the meantime, Cllr Nolan made an impassioned plea for many of the county’s general practitioners to join the service retention fight at St Joseph’s.
“We all know the huge pressure GPs are under and how they are expected to be all things to all people.
“But I would ask GPs to join the frontline fight as that would have huge clout, it really would,” she said.