Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick has confirmed that recently appointed health minister Stephen Donnelly has accepted an invite to visit Louth County Hospital in the near future.
Deputy Fitzpatrick has made it clear that re-opening the Louth Hospital remains his number one priority and he will be pushing the new Minister for Health for a return to full service for the hospital which was downgraded to a Minor Injuries Unit in 2010.
The invitation to Minister Donnelly was extended in the Dáil on Thursday during a debate on the health bill 2020. Speaking during the debate Deputy Fitzpatrick spoke about the need to move away from a two tier health system before speaking out about the Louth Hospital being downgraded in 2010.
“I welcome the opportunity to take part in today’s debate,” stated Deputy Fitzpatrick. “Access to healthcare should not be based on ability to pay but on medical needs and requirements. Undoubtedly there is a two-tier health system in Ireland. I welcome the Government’s commitment to Sláintecare and look forward to seeing it implemented during this Dáil.
“The Bill’s proposals include the framework for the further phased expansion of GP care without charges for all children ages 12 years and under on a three-phased basis, and an increase to gross income limits for medical card applicants for those over 70 years. Phase 1 will bring children aged eight years and under into a free care system.
Phase 2 will bring those aged ten and under into the system and phase 3 will bring those aged 12 and under into the system. While I fully support this move, I do not understand why it is to be done on a phased basis. This is not fair on parents or on their children who urgently need medical help. In my opinion this should be introduced straight away across the board. Why do we need to phase it? This is only adding fear and worry to those parents and children who are affected.
“We all know that, during the Covid-19 lockdown, many people stayed away from hospitals and doctors surgeries because of the fear of the virus. Now we have another reason for those parents and children not to attend their GP. It is estimated that more than 300,000 children will ultimately benefit from this change. We must give them the benefit now and not introduce this on a phased basis.
“It is wrong in this day and age for those over 70 to be assessed for medical cards. They should be automatically entitled to one. They have worked long and hard to be entitled at the very least to medical and healthcare in their retirement. I strongly urge the Government to reconsider its position on this and encourage it to look to introducing universal healthcare to all children and to those aged 70 years and over at the very least.
“The Minister now has an opportunity to look after families, children and the elderly people who have made Ireland a great country. I wish him the best in his new position, and if he works half as hard as he did when he was spokesperson for Fianna Fáil, he will do a good job.
“I come from Dundalk. We have a fantastic hospital there which is a minor injuries unit, MIU. Back in 2010 it was downgraded, which should never have happened. A great number of people travel daily from the Cooley Peninsula, Omeath and Lordship and pass the Louth County Hospital but cannot use its facilities. They have to go to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, which is another fantastic hospital but which is completely overstretched.
“I invite the Minister to come to Dundalk to visit our Louth County Hospital and the MIU and see the front-line staff we have there. Our health system needs to be upgraded and looked after and I promise the Minister that when he comes, he will see the services we have and will see the potential we have for going further. I wish Minister the best of luck and look forward to working with him as closely as I can,” concluded Deputy Fitzpatrick.