17 June 2011 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Today’s meeting in Dublin between Minister for Health Dr James Reilly and representatives of Monaghan Town and Co Councils and the Monaghan General Hospital Community Alliance will, hopefully, prove both informative and reassuring for the people of our county.
The meeting was already of crucial importance in clarifying the level of hospital services we can expect to see provided in Co Monaghan in the future. Events of earlier this week have accentuated that importance.
The local delegation will want the Minister to authoritatively dispel or confirm the tentative promises made by some during the course of the recent General Election campaign that suggested it might be possible for the new Government to restore some degree of the services lost in recent years to the hospital, or provide compensatory alternative services that would elevate it in status and in strategic importance in the region.
The delegation will however travel less hopefully than it might have because of the shadow of possible future closure cast over Monaghan General Hospital this week by national media revelations of the content of a cost-cutting blueprint sent to the Health Service Executive’s corporate headquarters by the management team of the HSE’s Dublin North East region.
According to the leaks, the closure of the hospitals in Monaghan and Dundalk was suggested as a possible consequences of the failure of the HSE’s upper hierarchy to approve a strategy for savings that included a series of controversial proposals, including the introduction of waiting lists for maternity and neo-natal services and reductions in treatment for sexual abuse victims.
While the linking of the words ‘closure’ and ‘Monaghan hospital’ in any context, even a speculative one such as this, is sufficient to spread local alarm, it should be realised that the proposal is being advocated only as a less preferential, if inevitable, alternative to other unpalatable cutbacks – the greater of two evils, if you like.
It should also be realised that it is an established, though crude and ethically questionable, strategy within health service administration for potentially controversial measures to be flagged when underling bureaucrats are requested by their superiors to come up with plans to save money.
However, it conveys the very vulnerable state of hospital services in our county when they can be casually tossed onto the table as a bargaining chip in this manner. It is painfully apparent that the Monaghan facility and the County Hospital in Louth have been so systematically stripped of services that they can now be callously regarded as disposable by those who control their destinies.
In response to the publicity engendered by these disclosures and the representations of our local Oireachtas members, the Minister has already declared that the closure of small hospitals is not on his agenda, although he did not rule out the temporary cessation of certain services in them to achieve savings.
The Minister, however, must go much further than this.
He owes it to the delegation he meets today, and to the people of Co Monaghan they represent, to tell them in the plain-speaking terms he was noted for when an Opposition Spokesperson exactly what he envisages the future role of Monaghan General Hospital to be.
The fact that Dr Reilly deigned not to come to Monaghan to meet with councillors and community activists on the issue suggests that he has no gifts to bestow, no crowd-pleasing announcements of the sort wished for by the people of Monaghan – and by his three Dáil party colleagues from Cavan/Monaghan who were elected at least in part on the implicit expectation of delivery on this issue.
But it is important nonetheless that he is open and frank with our representatives about how Monaghan General Hospital fits into his vision for the future of health service provision in this country.
It is essential, also, that the Minister clarifies how his promised abolition of the HSE and its replacement with a better administrative system is going to be accomplished.
For a body that has effectively received a death sentence, the Executive appears to be unimpaired in its functioning, happily going about the dismemberment of important services nationwide to achieve budget stringencies necessitated in large measure by its own overpopulated bureaucratic unwieldiness.
The people of Monaghan have endured enough empty and broken promises in relation to their hospital.
Even if the news he has to impart is less positive than hoped for, the Minister has a duty to tell today’s delegation the facts and the future as he sees it.
Hopefully what he has to say will both inform and reassure.
Let’s hear it, Minister!

The election of former Carrickmacross Town Council member Catherine Martin as deputy leader of the Green Party is, despite the current abject electoral fortunes of the political movement, a significant appointment.
Ms Martin assumes her role at a very challenging time for her party in this country.
The Greens’ ill-fated junior partnership in the last Coalition Government cost them the entirety of their Dáil representation and consigned them to the political wilderness.
Ms Martin and her party leader Eamon Ryan face a daunting task to rebuild their organisation and regain the estimation and trust of the electorate.
But it is important for the Irish political discourse that they do so.
The range of political ideologies for the Irish people to choose from is not so plentiful that it would well serve the public debate on a range of environmental and social policy issues to have a movement that has articulated upon them passionately and informatively in the past remain long in eclipse.
The damning verdict passed on the Greens by voters in the last General Election was less a repudiation of their policies than a punishment of their naïve dalliance with an unequal partnership in power.
The implicit message of the election outcome was one that Ms Martin and her colleagues will hopefully heed, as it holds the key to the recovery of their party – they must return to their roots if the Green shoots of recovery are to emerge!

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