Save St Brigid's Hospital campaigner Catherine Foley at the hospital after completing a 23.5km bed push from Clonmel last October. She is pictured with her son Dean Foley, Shannon and Layla Mai Conway
A Save St Brigid’s Hospital campaigner will push a bed from Carrick-on-Suir to the gates of the Dáil in Dublin next week in protest at the HSE’s decision to close the town’s District Hospital.
Catherine Foley from Castle View, Carrick-on-Suir will begin her one-woman protest from the grounds of St Brigid’s Hospital at 8am on Monday, January 11 and aims to complete the hospital bed push of about 100 miles by Friday, January 15.
The Carrick-on-Suir River Rescue volunteer wants to meet Health Minister Stephen Donnelly at the end of her epic journey and urge him to reverse the HSE’s decision last month to close St Brigid’s District Hospital.
The HSE has decided to turn the St Brigid’s building into a community healthcare centre for chronic disease management specialising in diabetes supports.
It has cited stricter Covid-19 infection prevention and control guidelines as the reason for closing the District Hospital.
Catherine has written to Minister Donnelly requesting a meeting with him but got no response to date.
She is contacting local TDs asking them to highlight the St Brigid’s Hospital closure and her bed push protest in the Dáil next Friday.
If she gets to meet the Minister, she says she will be seeking answers from him as to why the HSE is closing a hospital like St Brigid’s in the middle of a pandemic when all hospitals and their staff are under pressure.
St Brigid’s Hospital was redesignated as a step-down care facility for recovering Covid-19 patients during the first lockdown last spring but it closed after a few weeks due to a lack of Covid-19 patients requiring care there.
Catherine asked why can’t St Brigid’s now be used for this purpose to ease pressure on the bigger hospitals during the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, the main purpose of her bed push protest is to press for the reopening of St Brigid’s as a District Hospital providing convalescent, respite and palliative care to mostly elderly people living in her hometown and its hinterland that includes parts of counties Waterford and Kilkenny.
Catherine completed a 23.5km bed push protest from South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel to St Brigid’s Hospital grounds in late October. And she led a series of pre-Christmas Save St Brigid’s Hospital protests in Carrick-on-Suir also pushing a hospital bed at many of the marches.
Catherine feels so strongly about the closure of St Brigid’s because her father received palliative care there before he passed away at the hospital in January last year. Other close relatives of hers were also cared for at St Brigid’s in their last days.
“This is all we have in our town, which has a great community who have all fundraised over years and years to help build up this brilliant facility,” she said.
“St Brigid’s Hospital has been used by many families in the Carrick-on-Suir area who have been able to visit their family and friends recuperating there or have had the privacy to be with their loved ones being cared for in the hospice rooms.”
The current Covid-19 restrictions mean Catherine will do the bed push alone with just a car driving ahead of her.
At the end of each day of her journey to Dublin, she will be driven back to Carrick-on-Suir to spend the night there and return the next morning to resume the bed push. This is to avoid having to stay overnight in someone’s house.
She aims to push the bed about 20 miles a day over the five days and her route to Dublin will be along the quieter roads. On the first day, she will travel to Kilkenny via the Cregg Road, Windgap and Callan.
Catherine got plenty of practice pushing the hospital bed around Carrick-on-Suir at the Save St Brigid’s Hospital protests in the run up to Christmas and over the Christmas holiday period she prepared for the gruelling task ahead of her by hiking up Slievenamon from Ballypatrick.
She is heartened by the public support she has received in Carrick-on-Suir.
“People are 100 per cent behind me. Every day I meet people who say ‘fair play to you for doing this’.
“The support is brilliant. Carrick-on-Suir is a small town but its people have a heart of gold.”