There were no speeches in Dungloe on Saturday, no demonstrations, just hundreds of people marching in the rain to support their local hospital.
Led by St. Crona’s band, people from Dungloe and surrounding parishes, from very young children to pensioners, filled the main street as they made their way to Dungloe Community Hospital in a windy, steady rain. The march came in response to the Health Service Executive decision last month to temporarily close 10 beds in the hospital.
When the march arrived at the hospital, Pat Glackin stood up on the wall outside and told marchers, “You’ve made your point today.” He thanked all who took part, and the dignified assembly dispersed.
People at different points on the route estimated anywhere from 400 to 800 marchers. The turnout “shows the depth of feeling,” Pat Glackin said. “People use the hospital service. We know exactly what the hospital means.” He called the march a show of support for the hospital and staff.
A number of councillors and Oireachtas members marched, but there were no speeches. People began to assemble before the noon start, waiting beneath umbrellas: There were people who had or have loved ones in long-term care at the hospital, people who had used the respite services, people who had counted on the hospital any number of times over the years.
The hospital serves everyone, said a Ranafast woman, calling it, “our first port of call.”
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Marie Therese Gallagher, who raised the bed-closure issue last month and marched on Saturday, said, “Every bed that’s available in Dungloe hospital needs to be open to the needs of the community.”
Pat “the Cope” Gallagher, Fianna Fáil MEP, who marched, confirmed that Minister of State Dinny McGinley told him the Health Minister, James Reilly, had agreed in principle to meet the local lobbying committee. The HSE has confirmed that five Dungloe beds will reopen within four weeks, through arrangements to deploy HSE home-help staff there. Richy Carrothers of Impact, who marched, said the trade union proposal the HSE accepted was a good model for maximising home-help resources within the community, and could be rolled out elsewhere.
The Dungloe Credit Union had a sign out front saying they were closed for the march -- manager Brigid O’Donnell and staff Sarah Gorman, Joan Sweeney and Mary Boyle marched and reopened directly after. “The hospital would be very important to us all,” Brigid said.