One year ago today…
One year ago today – on the 5th of July, 2011 – the normally faceless men showed their faces.
The lethal dose was delivered at a press conference by smart suits from the HSE, but the deadly concoction had been put together by smarmy politicians.
The people of County Roscommon had known for a few weeks that the A&E Department was a ‘dead facility walking’, but when the brutal confirmation came, it was witnessed by only a handful of people, apart from emotional staff, who had been told moments before.
Leading HSE officials had arrived at Roscommon County Hospital earlier and conveyed the appalling news to employees. Of course everyone knew it was imminent, but people had hoped for a policy u-turn, even a stay of execution, some sign that democracy and basic rights might actually matter.
For years we had fought for Roscommon Hospital, a fight we shouldn’t really have had to engage in. The political establishment – Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the whole bloody lot of them – could never be fully trusted on the hospital. They paid it lip service and played politics with it. When it needed serious surgery, they applied cosmetic surgery. It was one of the biggest political footballs in the land, tossed around with added venom at election time.
Trust me, you could never trust them on Roscommon Hospital. Deep down, they were all happy enough to go along with a long-term policy of centralising services; the ‘Reports’ – many before Hanly, in fact stretching back almost fifty years now –knew best. The Reports, publicly frowned upon by many politicians, were in fact the road map that their parties were strictly adhering to. We got weasel words, political gamesmanship and cynical promises. Yes, some Governments ‘provided’ chunks of our money to enhance services at the hospital, but the die was cast a long time ago.
But won’t people – some people – suffer hardship of even die if you downgrade local hospitals? Yes, but death dressed as a statistic and perused by a civil servant in a swanky Dublin office bears no resemblance to death, avoidable death, with a grieving family and a loved one lost, the thud of clay on coffin, mourners huddled in a wind-swept graveyard, a scene never depicted in the ‘Reports.’
But I digress. One year ago today they came to strip our hospital, taking its emergency services, plundering in daylight, ruthlessly rejecting the will of the people.
Although we knew, deep down, that it was coming –of course it was coming, the torrid few weeks before told us that – it was still chilling. A press conference called. ‘They’ had arrived. The HSE suits.
Outside the County Hospital, on what was meant to be an ordinary afternoon, shell-shocked staff gathered, emerging in tiny groups from within, many in tears, distraught, resigned.
There was no anger evident; that moment had passed, though it would return. The media almost apologetically sidled towards staff.
Minutes later, the HSE chiefs arrived in a side room to meet the press and make it all official. Nothing personal guys, but it was a charmless charade, even if at that stage you had jobs to do. It was an indecent burial.
Sheer sadness was the dominant feeling. Hardly anyone spoke beyond the few words that had to be spoken. One of the HSE chiefs looked at his watch a few times. In fact they had kept us waiting. Soon we were all gone. The town had the word already; the A&E would be closing the following Monday.
The doors did close the following week, but only after more commendable defiance from an emotional public. Thousands of words have been written and said since, and there are more to come. But words are no substitute for life-saving medical skills.
The hospital is still there and it ought be supported. All things considered, I think it is a magnificent place, with great staff. But the A&E is gone, and we are cast in some unfunny Tale of the Unexpected, where we are asked – by different players – to cheer and gasp in equal message at each new twist and turn in the story.
Me? I repeat that great patient care remains my experience at the hospital. I hope to be there when the Endoscopy Unit is officially opened. While it would be very easy to be cynical about current plans for the hospital, I accept that we should acknowledge positive announcements and be open to the slight potential there may be for a slow re-building of the ‘emergency ruins’.
But I won’t be fobbed off by early revisionism, I won’t forget the debacle, the stripping of the hospital’s heart. Perhaps that heart can be restructured, but for now it remains deeply wounded.
This day last year – July 5th – the closure was confirmed. The story is not without its complexities, but ultimately responsibility lies with Enda Kenny and James Reilly. They betrayed the people before the 2011 General Election and their apologists would have us believe that Consultants at the hospital, on grounds of safety, were in fact wearing the ‘grim reaper’ masks. It’s not true. Note how our politicians are willing, not just to close the A&E, but to also disingenuously implicate others.
It’s a Tale of the Unexpected now, but it was a horror story this time last year. They couldn’t be trusted all along, and in the end it happened with indecent haste. After nearly fifty years of largely cynical to-ing and fro-ing by the political establishment, Kenny and Reilly acted reprehensibly. Beware the faces on those election posters, never mind the written commitments in the local press. ‘To hell with the people’ was the real message.
The hospital’s heart was dragged from us by arrogant, power-hungry men wielding their idle promises.
Silence of yesterday’s heroes!
The shock of the week? Italy’s win over Germany, or Roscommon’s win over Armagh?
Surely not. Surely the shock of the week was the reluctance of either Noel Dempsey or Martin Cullen to comment on news that the e-voting machines are to be dispensed with for once and for all. Shock? Well, perhaps not….
You remember the e-voting machines? They cost €50 odd million but never took off, were a bit unreliable in fact. They then cost millions more to maintain. They became an electronic noose around certain hard, thick-skinned political necks.
Anyways, the nightmare is over and the machines are going to the great count centre in the sky.
Some journalists thought it might be nice to get a comment or two from messrs. Dempsey and Cullen.
Cullen and Dempsey agreed to meet the press in an ordinary hotel in Dublin. They drove there themselves, wore casual clothes and didn’t look smug. Heads bowed, they jointly said:
“Obviously we made a terrible mistake and used taxpayers’ money recklessly. We should have resigned at the time. We acted like pompous, self-important twits thereafter. Sorry.”
Actually, they did nothing of the sort. They either said nothing – or passed the buck.
Great little country all the same!
Eavesdropping at the Hyde…
Okay, it’s not a criminal offence, is it? There I was, at the Hyde on Sunday, in the crowd, and my ears picked up a few comments….so this is how the game unfolded, with actual commentary by various fans….
Watch Shine, he’ll miss this.
Fair play to him.
Who’s the ref?
Ah, Laois, they’re only good for fighting!
AS FIRST HALF WEARS ON….
What are Roscommon at? Sure Clarke will beat them on his own.
There’s only one way to mark him.
Yes, on the jaw!
Dirty Armagh bastards!
Spillane was right, it’s puke football!
ROSCOMMON WIDES MOUNT….
God that’s shocking….
I’d do better myself.
The ref’s making up his own rules! Yer man dived and he penalised him, you can’t give a free for that!
I’d bring Cathal Cregg back to mark Clarke.
But there’s no-one to bring in….
Where are you?
Oh, you’re the far side? How did you get on last night?
Where’s the big screen and the music now!
Armagh will win in a canter now.
At sure it’s shocking, it’s worse than the last day.
Get me a bar of chocolate, will you?
SECOND HALF STARTS….
Yahoo! Who got it?
Yahoo! Good man Kilbride! Come on Ros, they’re not that good!
Seanie McDermott is a mighty bit of stuff.
Go on Cregger, go on Cregger!
ROSCOMMON MOVE CLEAR….
If we win this then we’ll take Dublin and Kerry in Croker!
Go on Ros!
Get the ball in!
He’s useless, that fella’s useless, take him off!
Willie Hegarty is after saying on Shannonside that Kildare can concentrate on the hurling from now on!
Did yer man (the P.A. guy) say Cavan got three goals?
Yes, he’s talking too much, what’s he telling me that for!
Go on Ros, go on Ros!
Good man Finneran!
We’ll be out next Saturday!
That’s no free!
He never touched him!
Did anyone time it? I never time it.
At least put the ball dead!
Issue dated: 05 JULY 2012
© Roscommon People