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People living in the Mid-West have “every right to feel aggrieved” with the standard of health services in the region, a protest held in Ennis has heard.

Between 60 to 70 people gathered at the Daniel O’Connell Monument on Saturday afternoon as the Mid-West Hospital Campaign held its first demonstration since the pandemic. Ongoing frustration with the health services in the locality and the failure to address an overcrowded University Hospital Limerick (UHL) and it having the highest amount of patients on trolleys across the country were voiced by protesters in their bid to see Ennis Hospital returned its status as a model three hospital and for the emergency department to reopen.

Protesters held red flags with numbers on them symbolising the amount of patients left waiting on trolleys in an overcrowded UHL. In April, a new record was set when 126 patients were on trolleys at UHL.

Politicians present were, Joe Carey TD (FG), Cathal Crowe TD (FF), Senator Timmy Dooley (FF), Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) and Cllr Mark Nestor (FF).

Addressing the protest, Hilary Tonge of Mid-West Hospital Campaign recalled that at the time Ennis Hospital was downgraded in 2009 that failed promises were made. “A new centre of excellence was promised but instead we got the country’s most overcrowded hospital”.

Noeleen Moran, the group’s chief spokesperson in the county explained that the protest was called “because Co Clare needs a proper functioning emergency department in Ennis”. The downgrading of Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital and St John’s Hospital has left “far too many people reliant on University Hospital Limerick”. The enormous pressures of staff from the beginning to the end of their working shifts was flagged by the Ballyvaughan native who observed that it was “no wonder” difficulty was encountered when trying to recruit and retain staff.

She praised the Government for taking “extraordinary and prompt measures” during the response to COVID-19 and believed a similar approach was now needed for the healthcare “crisis” in the Mid-West, “the quickest and most effective way is to reopen the A&Es”. “If you fall sick after hours there are no alternatives,” Noeleen said. She lamented the fact that a mooted reopening of Ennis Hospital’s ED was “consistently sidelined and ruled out”.

Moran continued, “The people of the Mid-West matter and we will never accept the conditions we are being subject to in University Hospital Limerick. We have every right to feel aggrieved”.

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