Fianna Fáil TD for Laois Sean Fleming has criticised the announcement by the HSE that the Accident and Emergency Department at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise is set to close between the hours of 8pm – 8am.

“The decision taken by the HSE to close the A&E department in Portlaoise overnight is short-sighted and should be withdrawn. What the hospital needs is adequate consultant cover, but instead services are being downgraded” said Deputy Fleming.

“Everybody recognises the difficulties that occurred in the maternity unit and the major improvements that have been made there in improving patient care through the provision of additional staffing, resources and the involvement of the Coombe Hospital. The same now needs to happen with the A&E unit at the hospital.

“The hospital provides an invaluable service for people across the entire Midlands. Over 30,000 use the A&E department each year and it is one of the busiest units in Ireland outside of the major cities. This cutback represents the beginning of a slippery slope towards the eventual closure of the unit.

“The Government is clearly embarking on a process to completely close the A&E unit. In one move alone it has reduced service hours at the A&E by 50 percent. If you look at what happened in other regional hospitals in Ireland, you will see that an initial reduction in service hours was quickly followed by further downgrades.

“Government Ministers have made commitments to safeguard services at Portlaoise hospital. However this decision shows that these commitments have been cast aside. The erosion of services has been caused by a lack of adequate funding under the current Government.

“Government representatives are likely to make further false commitments in the lead up to the General Election. However the next move that will take place is the reduction of the A&E hours to a paltry 9am – 5pm service coupled with across the board service cutbacks” said Deputy Fleming.