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June 12, 2007

COUNTY INFIRMARY - Proposed closure 1959

The Minutes of a meeting held in Kildare Town on 3 November 1959 to discuss the proposed closure of St. Brigid's Hospital, Kildare. My thanks to Stephen Talbot who made the Minutes available.

[Copied from typed copy provided by Stephen Talbot from original notes of meeting in November 1959 in Stephen Talbot's possession]

Proposed closing of Kildare County Infirmary.

Public Meeting in C.Y.M.S. Hall Kildare
At 8 p.m. 3rd November 1959.

Report of Proceedings.

Opening the meeting, the Chairman Colonel Rea said:-

“This meeting, as you know, has been called to discuss the proposal to close the County Infirmary.  It is indicative of the interest to see such a large gathering present, but before opening the meeting I would make one earnest appeal – to approach this whole problem, coolly, calmly and in a reasonable manner.  I know the way feeling is going, but I think it is better for everybody if we are quite cool about the way in which we approach the subject.  Another point I will stress is that the matter is completely above politics.  Do not let us have politics in it.  I am sure that is the wish of everybody I have been speaking to.

There are a lot of people who want to express views on this matter.  At a meeting such as this there is always a distinct probability that we would jump up and say things for which afterwards we would be sorry, so it is for that reason, and reason only, I regretfully announce to the Press that from now on this meeting is in Committee.  At the end of the meeting we will give the Press a statement and any information they require.  I hope they will accept that.

The way I propose to run the meeting is to call on a number of people to express their views, then we will give a period of general discussion and for people who have not been called on to say what they may wish to say.  If, at the end of that discussion there are any points requiring clarification, we will frame questions and put them to our Council members.  Again, it is completely up to them.  We will not embarrass them in any way, but if they are able and willing to answer out questions we will be pleased if they would do so.  If at the end of the question time period the meeting feels like formulating a resolution we will formulate it – then you can from the body of the hall give the action to be take on such resolution.

With that, I think it is best to start straight away to get the views.  It might be just as well to set the course.  The first comment is this and I think it is a fair comment – that the first indication that the general public got of this proposal to close the County Hospital, was in the press.  Following on that I and most people here I think, have been discussing this whole problem and I think the reaction can be summed up briefly by saying that the people of this district have been deeply shocked that such a proposal should go through.  Having said that I will say no more, and will hand over the discussion to the various speakers and to start off I will call on our Parish Priest, Rev. Fr. Swayne:

Proposed Closing of Kildare County Infirmary.

Speaker:  Very Rev. Fr. Swayne. P.P.

For a long time past the people of Kildare have been familiar with and concerned about conditions in Kildare Hospital, the correct and official title by the way is St. Brigid’s Hospital.  One does not need to be an Engineer or a Doctor, and one had not to wait for last week’s Leinster Leader to be informed of the defects from which the hospital suffered.  The people of Kildare were perfectly aware of these already.  It was humiliating for them to realise that though the hospital had made considerable progress in recent years, it had not kept pace with the general rate of progress of hospitals throughout the country.  They could not but know that these defects were due to the neglect of the County Council to equip the hospital adequately for the purpose it has served for so many years, namely the Surgical Hospital for Co. Kildare.  All are agreed as to the handicap under which the hospital has worked for these years, but notwithstanding those handicaps, nobody has suggested that the Co. Surgeon and his staff have not carried out their work with the utmost efficiency, or that they did not deserve the tribute which the Co. manager paid them at the Council Meeting last Monday 26th.

Frequently during the past eight years the organisations of the Parish have discussed these defects, and efforts were made to induce those responsible to remedy them.  We readily acknowledge that Kildare Co. Council have a high standard of courtesy towards the public, and of efficiency in all fields under their care.  The people of Kildare were always assured that a general scheme of hospitalisation – that was the magic word – was being prepared, or if it was not being actually prepared, it was at least in contemplation.  This scheme would be very broad; it might even embrace Co. Carlow and of course St. Brigid’s Hospital would fit perfectly into this general scheme; that nothing however could be done at the moment; we would have to wait until the New Manager, or New Minister, or the New Co. Council took up duty.  Soft words such as these had a soothing, in fact a soporific effect on the people of Kildare, but within the past week they had a rude awakening.  They realise that the grandiose scheme that was being contemplated was to leave Kildare Town and Kildare County without a Surgeon and without a Surgical Hospital.

It appears that last April the new Co. Surgeon – Mr. Ward was asked to report on the surgical facilities in Co. Kildare and to recommend thereon.  In his report Mr. Ward referred to the principal defects in St. Brigid’s Hospital, defects which he has since pointed out are to be met with in other surgical hospitals as well, and he expressed his preference for St. Mary’s Hospital Naas as a suitable surgical unit.  The Co. Council’s reaction to this report was to move their Office Staffs into St. Mary’s Hospital last April.  While nobody grudges the Co. Council’s Staff their present comfortable quarters, there is no indication as to when they will vacate them again.  With these facts in mind, Mr. Ward again turns his thought to Kildare and in April last he recommended that at least a Lift should be installed in St. Brigid’s Hospital.  This recommendation Mr. Ward states has been ignored.

With the Council Staff happily housed at St. Mary’s Hospital the Co. Manager too turns his thought to St. Brigid’s Co. Surgical Hospital at Kildare.  At last Monday’s meeting he told the Co. Council of the conditions which he found in St. Brigid’s Hospital and which had been described in Mr. Ward’s report.  It should not have been necessary to tell the Co. Council of conditions in St. Brigid’s it was their plain duty to have ascertained these conditions for themselves and have remedied them long ago.  But they felt humiliated at the recital of these defects which only showed up their own neglect.  They shared in the alarm of the Co. Manager who took care to tell them that the cost per day of a patient in Dublin was 11/1d lower than in Kildare.  This was a bait they easily swallowed.  By 15 votes to 2 they adopted the Co. Manager’s suggestion that they should close Kildare as a Surgical Hospital and send the surgical patients in future to Dublin or Portlaoise.

On reading the Press report, Mr. Ward wrote protesting at the use that had been made of his report.  He justly complains that his letters had been used to represent him as having recommended that Kildare be left without a Surgical Hospital.  It is now clear that Mr. Ward recommended nothing of the sort.  But everybody will agree that in the light of Mr. Ward’s statement, the proceedings of last Monday’s meeting place the Co. Council in a very unfavourable position.  On the other hand he considers that the decision to abandon St. Brigid’s as a Surgical Hospital is ill-advised.  In the short time he has been in Kildare he readily recalls a number of patients who might not have survived if they had to travel further than Kildare for attention.

On Friday last the very day Mr. Ward’s letter appeared, the Co. Kildare Branch of the Irish Medical Association met and passed the following resolution:-
“The Kildare Branch of the Irish Medical Association views with great concern the proposal of Kildare Co. Council to close the Co. Hospital as a Surgical Hospital.”

“They regret that such a serious proposal should be made without reference to the Consultative Committee or the Medical practitioners of the County.”

“There are many grave aspects, such as treatment of acute surgical emergencies and road accidents requiring immediate blood transfusions, which, we feel, cannot be satisfactorily dealt with under the proposed arrangements.  Furthermore, the absence of a surgical consultant within the county is a serious disadvantage to patients and doctors alike.”

“We further feel that such a far reaching decision should not be made so hastily and that the existing arrangements should be continued.”

After the authoritative statements of Mr. Ward and the Co. Kildare I.M.A. there should be no further room for loose thinking or loose talking such as was indulged in at the last meeting of the County Council, Members of which must now regret their premature pronouncements on medical matters.

The picture which the Co. Manager painted of the Co. Surgeon getting suddenly sick while an emergency or unconscious patient was brought to hospital could hardly have impressed anybody.  Less impressive perhaps was the picture drawn by a Councillor of a man who is hanging by a thread between life and death, for whom the implied remedy was to send him an extra twenty or thirty miles to Dublin or Portlaoise: that surely would afford instant relief to the patient, and no doubt also the ratepayer.

More startling still was the statement of the Athy Councillors that 99% of the people of Athy would prefer to go to Dublin.  I have no way of assessing opinion in Athy, but I surely will be permitted to disclose my own experience.  During the past eight years, I have met scores of Athy patients in St. Brigid’s Hospital: they were all delightful people: I never heard one of them complain that he or she was compelled to come to Kildare in preference to Dublin, or that he or she was compelled to remain there.  The County Manager has made this clear.  It seems to me that when he instructed the Co. Surgeon to send to another hospital any patient he felt he was unable to handle, he was only continuing and sanctioning the practice of years past.  Special cases have always been sent to special hospitals in Dublin for special surgical treatment.

The Dublin hospitals are often found to be full to capacity and patients have to wait for beds.  The visiting hours at Dublin hospitals are and have to be more restricted than at Kildare.  It is hard to believe that that the people of Athy do not appreciate being able after their day’s work to visit their friends at Kildare hospital.  May we suggest to the Kildare Councillors that they should consider canvassing Athy opinion on this matter.

The people of Kildare do not accept the Co. Managers statement that a lift cannot be installed at St. Brigid’s Hospital.  For one thing the Manager does not quote any Architects opinion.  It is just as well perhaps.

It is difficult too to understand his statement that in the event of a Fire at the hospital, surgical and bed-ridden patients could not be got out.  What then is the purpose of the two huge concrete structures that were erected at the rear of the hospital within the past four years?  To ordinary eyes they look to be Fire-Escapes.  The Co. Manager proposes that St. Brigid’s should be continued as a Medical Hospital.  Does he wish us to believe that these Fires-Escapes which appear to be triumphs of architecture and engineering are inadequate for surgical patients but quite adequate for medical patients.

Notwithstanding last Monday’s meeting everybody will find it hard to believe, as I for one do not believe, that these are the real sentiments of the County Manager and the County Council.  We do not believe that they ever intended to deprive Kildare County, or Kildare Town for that matter of full surgical facilities.  We endorse the statement of Mr. Ward and the Co. Kildare Irish Medical Association and request:

1) That St. Brigid’s Hospital be retained as a County Surgical Hospital.
2) That St. Brigid’s Hospital be adequately equipped and the defects indicated by Mr. Ward be removed viz.

a) Additional accommodation be provided.
b) A lift be installed
c) The theatre facilities improved
d) Facilities for outdoor clinic be provided.

Rev. Dean Eaton

Rev. Fathers, Mr. Chairman, ladies & Gentlemen,

“Father Swayne is a jump ahead of me.  He has said some of the things I intended to say, but I may have a few other things to put before you.

The County Council, we should remember, is elected by us and yet there are people I regretfully say who regard the continued existence of the County Council as a grave public scandal.  I do not agree with that at all.  They have always been extremely courteous to me, very kind and helpful in every way.  Whenever I had a deputation or wanted work done, they always did it for me.  They always listened patiently to me.  We ought to remember that and I would like that recorded.

It gives me considerable pain then to disagree with the County Council’s decision to close the hospital.  I think the closing of our hospital here would be a disaster.  Furthermore, it would be unlucky.  I am full of superstitions.  I will have nothing to do with pulling down a church as long as there is somebody to worship, and I will have nothing to do with shutting down Kildare Hospital.  I think it does wonderful work.

It is said that the building is old.  There are three National Hospitals in Dublin that are far older and they are most efficiently run to the satisfaction of the public.  As you know, Dr. Cannon and the physicians of this town have done wonderful work in reconstructing this hospital.  We owe Dr. Cannon a great debt of gratitude.  I am not a builder or a surgeon and it seems to me that it would be the simplest thing to cut down the width of the various flights of stairs – they are 6 ft. wide and most stairs are 2 ½ feet wide – and to install a lift.  The theatre, to my uninstructed mind, is adequate and up to date.  The anesthetics are all at the head of the table, the instruments are to hand, there is a very powerful system of lighting – these are important facts to remember.

I have been connected with this hospital for over 25 years and I have been one of the Chaplains for the last seven years.  I have been in every hospital in Dublin save two or three, and I say that this hospital is as good as any of them.  The Staff – Surgeon, Medical Officers of the town, Matron, Sisters, Nursing Staff and everybody from our good friends at the door to the people who cook the food are first-class and I think small enquiry will prove that.  People say that I am prejudiced because I have a gra for the nuns.  I have a gra for them and I propose to go on having it.  I think that they are very wonderful people and that they have been kindness itself.  The patients tell me that they, the patients, are quite warm in their beds, that they are comfortable and that the food is good and there is an atmosphere of cheerfulness throughout.  This is a matter of vital importance to the patient and to everybody concerned.

To take the case of accidents – I should suggest to you and I say it would reference to religion, that before crossing Claregate Street we ought all to say a short prayer, because a fast car coming from the South, while it may not kill us may injure us and we could find ourselves in Mr. Murphys’s parlour spoiling his carpet while we await the coming of the ambulance and we get the best spiritual and bodily aid.  But suppose we do not have our hospital – suppose it is closed – and one of us should have an accident.  Again we find ourselves in Mr. Murphy’s parlour, destroying his carpet, and being left there for hours-waiting for the bus from Cahirciveen or Skibbereen to take us to Belfast.

Mr. Ward’s last words – and I do not say that in the religious sense – as reported in the Leinster Leader, were that he knew of several cases of people who would have died if the ambulance had by-passed Kildare Hospital – that he could not visualise Kildare without a hospital.  So Ladies and Gentlemen, I say to you that you ought to fight for your hospital.  May we be able to retain it and I pray that God’s blessing will rest upon its work and everybody in it.”

At this point, the Chairman requested subsequent speakers to try to confine their remarks to about five minutes as he wished to confine the length of the meeting.

Mr. Weir

“Rev Fathers, Rev. Dean, Ladies and Gentleman.

I follow in very difficult footsteps.  We have had two most excellent and pointed speeches which have brought home to us all the importance of the very vital issue at stake.  I will not say very much – I will keep it to five minutes anyhow.

I came here on 21st May 1937.  I arrived to find that there had been a serious accident at the factory on the previous day, as a result of which a man, but for the skill of Dr. Cannon would certainly have lost a finger, perhaps a hand.  From that day to this, I have always received the most courteous help at the hospital from the resident surgeon, no matter who he was, from the matron and nursing staff and from all the medical gentlemen of Kildare town.  I want you to visualise what would happen to us tomorrow if the hospital was closed and a similar set of circumstances arose.  That is only a very minor detail when compared with life. It might be the life of a man or woman that is at stake, and we don’t want any ‘last words’ such as have been referred to by the Dean.  The only thing I can say is this – there was a parable about two brothers.  The Lord told one brother to do a job and he said he would do it and went off and did not do it.  The other brother said that he would not do it and he did it.  I believe here that we here can bring pressure to bear on the County Council, the County Manager and all concerned that the things they said they would do they will not and our hospital will be kept open.”

Introducing the next speaker, Colonel Rea pointed out that Mr. Smith has had associations with Kildare Hospital for many years.  It was Mr. Smith who had provided the data for the short history which had been in circulation.

Mr. Michael Smith.

“Mr. Chairman, Rev. Father, Rev. Dean, Ladies and Gentleman.

I have been associated with this Kildare Hospital for a very long time.  I became a member of the Kildare Infirmary Committee in 1920 and I have been associated with the Hospital ever since, both on the infirmary Committee,  The Board of Health, the County Council and lately as a member of the County Health Committee.  Like the other speakers here, I was very much surprised to learn from the Press that the hospital had been abolished.  There is no doubt at all that if it is closed as a Surgical Hospital there will be no further use for it.

A lot of matters have been spoken of here.  I just wish to say that when I became a member of Kildare Hospital Committee, it was a voluntary hospital – the people of Kildare kept it open.  The one matter we have to remember is that the Kildare Hospital is the property of the people of Kildare.  In the old days they got no grant.  When I became a member of the Committee, they were a voluntary committee.  At that time they had a very excellent Ladies Committee who worked very hard collecting and running entertainments and dances to keep the hospital going.  The only grant at the time was a small one to pay the Surgeon’s salary.  Those of us on the Committee at the time decided that we would look for a further grant and that we got, to pay Dr. Coady who was working for a ‘starvation’ salary at the time.  We met monthly and made rulings.  The late Mr. Charles Bergin was Honorary Secretary and our Parish Priest was Chairman and it was carried on as a voluntary hospital until 1933 when Kildare County Council took it over.  At that time a number of members of Kildare Infirmary Committee objected to it being taken over.  They believed that the time would come when it would be closed.  They had their suspicions that when Kildare County Council took it over it might be closed.

The Hospital is a very old building – 192 years since it was established.  It is a historic building.  During 1798 it was taken over by the North Cork Militia (1) as a Barracks and after all, the very fact of it being placed in Kildare proved even at that time that Kildare was the best place for it.  After the Rebellion, it was transferred to Naas, then it was brought back again to Kildare.  After it being taken over in 1949 we had a big fight to retain the hospital here, but the County Council at that time acted differently to our present Council – they fought for the Kildare Hospital – It was actually due to them that Kildare kept the County Surgical Hospital for this County.

As far as a visiting committee is concerned – we had a visiting committee. In conjunction with the Surgeon, the Matron and architect, made a number of suggestions for the improvement of the hospital during the past ten or twelve years.  A lot of matters were attended to.  Of course there was always the trouble of the operating theatre and the stairs.  It was brought to our notice that the operating theatre was too small – but we had surgeons like Drs. Coady and Cannon who carried out their work effectively and efficiently in it.  I think there is no other hospital which had a lower rate of mortality as far as operations were concerned.  Before Dr. Cannon went away, he called on me and other members of the Health Committee and suggested improvements.  He said that it would be a disaster if Kildare Hospital should be closed.  He had his suspicions that when he went, an attempt would be made to close Kildare Hospital.

We always had a great fight to try and keep Kildare Hospital but still at the same time what I cannot understand is this.  A number of the County Council Members are old members and know all about this fight for Kildare Hospital.  They knew of the complaints made by Drs. Coady and Cannon, and of course the same complaints were made by Mr. Ward. – and after all – they were not complaints – they were recommendations.  Mr. Ward made his recommendations to improve the Hospital.
There is no use in the County Manager making a statement about the stairs. The stairs was always there and yet there was no accident. We believe there can be a lift installed. We had a committee of medical men who made certain recommendations and one recommendation was that there could be a great operating theatre for £2000 – there could be a lesser one for £1500 and there could be a big improvement for £280, but the County Council would not grant that amount, but at the same time they are squandering thousands on jobs about the county. We believe at all times that there should be a grant from the Hospital Trust Fund. Co. Kildare got very little from the Hospital Trust fund though they buy their share of tickets.

What I object to is that members of the County Council take such little pride in their County. They were told to send their patients to Portlaoise, to Baltinglass and to Dublin. This county is as much entitled to a Surgical Hospital as Wicklow and Laois since we have a greater population and the members of the County Council should have fought for a County Hospital. Every other county has a county hospital, Leix, Offay, Meath – all with less population than Kildare therefore I can`t understand why fifteen members of the County Council who should have been interested in maintaining our hospital should vote against Kildare Co. Hospital.  I believe, and I am supported here by the other speakers that the people have the last word. Each one on the County Council is there to represent the people and I must say that both Councillors Dowling and Mc Wey are to be complimented at the fight they put up against the big odds on Monday week last, for the retention of our hospital. They showed that they do represent the people.

Whether the patients come from Athy or North Kildare, one thing in favour of Kildare Hospital is that the people could visit their relations there. People cannot afford to go to Dublin on visits. I believe that if we held a meeting in Athy we would find that 99% of the people of Athy would wish to come to Kildare Hospital. At a meeting in Droichead Nua last night, Monsignor Miller said that he could guarantee that as far as the people of Droichead Nua were concerned, they wished to come to Kildare Hospital. Therefore 100% of the people of Kildare want the Co. Hospital there”.

Mr. Felix Murphy

“Mr. Chairman, Rev. Fathers, Rev. Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen.

First of all I think I have been asked to speak as a native of this town, one born and reared in it. I think I should first of all take the opportunity of thanking our Parish Priest and Dean Eaton for the magnificent speeches they made and the effort they have made to win this cause for us.

Unlike Fr. Swayne, I have no speech prepared but I would say this much – I think I am expressing the view of all the people of the town when I say that this decision of the Council hit us in almost bewildering fashion, so much so, I could say with safety it shook the very foundations of life in our town for a few days until we got over it. Now the purpose of this meeting is very obvious. It is not to consider the merits of the County Council resolution. We are satisfied that the resolution should be rescinded. We do not want to lose our hospital as a surgical unit. I am sure there are very few families if any, that do not owe at one time or another their thanks to the hospital.

As far as I can judge, the meeting of the County Council to decide this issue was held in a very short time. One would think that a motion of this nature would call for very prolonged and serious discussion and consideration. If you read the report in the press you would come to the conclusion that this serious problem was decided almost in a manner of fifteen minutes or half an hour.

To come to business itself .The only valid reason as far as I am concerned and I speak on behalf of all of you, that would appear to exist for the closing down of the hospital, would be the question of the inadequacy; but surely those inadequacies are not so great that they cannot be overcome. A lift should be a very simple thing to install - and as regards an out-patients department and Childrens Ward - the ground is there and should be utilised.

Take the other side of the picture which Senator Smith was talking about. It is highly inconvenient to expect the people of Kildare to bring patients to Dublin or Portlaoise. This in the mind of the Co. Council could be done by ambulance, but you would want a fleet of ambulances fully equipped for this work. The idea of the County Council saying that you can hire a car is not feasible. Motor cars were not made to bring patients to hospital. Ambulances are specially constructed, specially sprung and equipped with a proper bed and they have proper nursing staff, which the patient may need on the way. These cannot be provided in a motor car. The suggestion that you can bring a patient to hospital in a car is a complete failure on the part of the County Council to fulfill its obligation to the public. I do not see personally any alternative in the resolution but I heard Fr. Swayne say that it would be continued as a medical hospital. There is nothing in the resolution about that. The resolution simply says that the hospital be discontinued as a surgical unit. Until we see some resolution from the County Council we cannot accept that.

I do not really think there is much more I can say. It seems extraordinary in these days when we have so many Social Services, Health Act, Social Welfare Department, Social Welfare Acts, Hospital Sweeps for some 30 years, surely it seems a dreadful thing that a county is asked to send their patients to other County Hospitals. You and I, all of us are working daily for the life of this country. I am not going to touch on politics but I think you will agree with me if I finish these words by saying that because if the work we are doing to satisfy legislators, surely we are entitled to a greater return from Local Government administration than the suggestion that we ought to run our county without a Surgical Hospital which has been there for so many years and has served the public with such great loyalty.

The Chairman then declared the meeting open for general discussion for ten or fifteen minutes.

Mr. Stephen Talbot

“I would like to say that it is a good thing that this has happened at the end of the tourist season or we would be the laughing stock of the World. If you drive up O’Connell Street any day you will see a huge poster ‘43 million for the hospitals.’ There are only 26 counties in this part of the country and surely out of the 43 million they can give something for Kildare Hospital and put in a lift. Take up today’s paper, you see the Irish Hospital Trust invested 1 million pounds in a loan; they give £5000 to a big race; they give £5000 to golf - of course all of these things are more important than the saving of life. I wonder what the tourists who buy these sweep tickets would say if they knew that Kildare Hospital must close because they cannot put a lift in or a ward for children or something like that. 

Mr. H. Darling

“I would say a few words on behalf of the old Infirmary. From this meeting I would say that one thing would originate - It might be a deputation to the County Council. But during my thirty years in Kildare there have been many deputations for various things. They have always been received but that is as far as it got. No further. In the old days the infirmary was run by the people. I now say, instead of pandering to the County Council, I would ask them to hand back our Hospital to us and we will run the infirmary on voluntary contributions.”

Mrs. O’Donoghue

“On behalf of the I.C.A. I would like to protest at the closing of the Kildare County Hospital and when I say this it is on behalf of all the families resident in the County.”

Mr. Joseph Whittle

“I would like to say a few words. I am not a Kildare man but about three years ago I was sent there for two days. I was not very sick but I was in severe pain. I was well able to eat. I ate all that I got. I was eventually transferred to a prominent Dublin Hospital. The surgeons were very efficient. I am not saying this for a joke. After being two days in bed I was weaker than when I went in. I am a country lad and I could eat anything I get. But I definitely could not eat anything I got at this Dublin Hospital. At 7 in the morning I got a piece of bread with no crusts on it- that same piece of bread came to me at eleven o ‘clock. That would never happen and did not happen in Kildare Infirmary.”

The Chairman

“We have heard a very fair expression of views. I have now a few queries which arise from the discussion and statements made. We will put them to our Councillors here. I do not want to embarrass them in any way. If they feel they should not answer any question then we should accept that. If they feel that they are able to answer, it might help to clear a number of points, because with an issue like this we are bound to have rumours and wrong slants. I will now put the questions”.

Q 1.   Were the Council fully briefed on all correspondence between the County     Surgeon and the County Manager.

A. Mr. Chairman, Rev. Fathers Ladies and Gentlemen. I do not propose to go into the pros and cons of this very vital question. My views are already known, but regarding the question that the Chairman has asked I will say this. The very first intimation that the Council as a body – I am speaking on behalf of my colleagues – received in connection with the closing of the hospital was at the meeting. Regarding the question if there were any correspondence between the Co. Surgeon and the County Manager the Council were not made aware of them. We at no time knew what was in the air. Certainly on Monday week last was the first time that we had any idea that the County Hospital was to be closed.

Q.2   There is a health Committee in the County. Is there any reason why that Committee was not called or consulted before this issue was put to the Council.

A. I would like to make it quite clear at this stage that I am not speaking to this meeting as Chairman of the County Council. For that reason I will try to make the reply. The Health Committee is formed, not in the general sense drawn by the County Council but as laid down by the Dept. of Local Government, and that advisory committee has met through the years and proved its usefulness but for the last two years that Medical Council or Health Committee has not met because if the fact that you had no permanent Co. Manager and for that reason the advice of the Health Committee was not asked in any matters or vital importance associated with the hospital. But the question in a sense may be rather awkward. In so far as the recommendations or requests associated with the discussion to a certain extent imply that the Council could only decide the issue after a discussion had taken place. It means in words that the Committee were not called on to meet in the last two years. I can only express the feeling of the meeting as expressed by Fr. Swayne by saying we consider it a matter of regret that the Committee was not called on to report on this before it was put to the Council.

Q.3     Chairman does not wish to have question recorded.

Q.4    In putting this proposal to the Council was any consideration given to the families of patients who will have to travel to Dublin to seethem thereby having   to pay their fares and in all probability lose their wages because visiting hours in   Dublin are during normal working hours. Was that point put to the Council.

A. The answer is of course “No”.

Q.5    Was there any reason why a permanent County Surgeon was not appointed      since Dr. Cannon left.

A. In connection with that answer I think some member of the Health Committee will bear me out. The Health Committee in their talks in 1956 - men of qualified experience - placed before the Council, their advice in this matter and asked the Council to demand the appointment of a permanent and full-time surgeon for the county. The Minister for health then stated that he would not agree to the question of a permanent full-time appointment but that he would agree to the appointment of a part–time surgeon. Again the Health Committee were very useful and led the Council to put their heels on the ground and fight further. They would not accept the question of a part-time surgeon and in 1957 the Minister for Health having in view at the time, the possibility of a Regional Hospital for Kildare and Carlow, agreed to appoint a full-time temporary surgeon for at least two years but at no time was it a function of the County Council to make that appointment themselves. It was entirely subject to Ministerial sanction and the Minister would not give sanction.

Q.6    Is there no machinery in local Government for informing the public before major issues like this are discussed, thereby getting the feeling of the public on these matters?

A. In matters of that nature there are very long correspondence and discussions between public bodies and the Minister and it is hard to broadcast in a general way unless through the press who publish the report of Committee and County Council proceedings but I am sure it could be answered in this way - with a little more intimacy existing between Councillors and the people those things could be brought to their notice but presently it is entirely dependent on a slight synopsis that you have read in the papers.

The Chairman said he did feel that major issues such as this should be brought before the public before they are decided on.

Mr. Smith

    “I have been speaking to Mr. Dowling and I believe that the motion was not in order. According to Standing Orders a member must give notice in writing. Any member cannot stand up and propose a resolution, he must give notice in writing and that can be considered at the next meeting. If that had been done the motion would have to go before the Council at the following meeting and members could consult the people and have them decide what they would do. I ruled several similar motions out for that reason.”
The Chairman thanked Mr. Smith and pointed out  that the meeting would not presume to interfere in Co. Council affairs.

Q.7     Could we be told by any of the Councillors what proportion of the rates of this County are collected in Kildare and surrounding districts?.

A. Regarding that question, the total rate contribution by the rate payers of this County is £420,000 per annum. Taking Kildare Town as a center for a radius of 10 miles, the total rate contribution is £142,000 approximately – one-third of the total rate collected.

Q.8   If our Hospital is closed and the medical officers of the County want a surgeon’s opinion, will the patient have to be brought to Dublin just for a surgeon’s opinion or will the surgeon be brought to the County.

A. That I think, hit the nail on the head regarding this whole question. It is my considered opinion that the decision to remove the Co. Surgical Hospital depends entirely on the opinion of our Medical profession. Regarding the question that has been asked, it will happen and we must face the truth that if a doctor in any particular area of this County wants to obtain a Surgeon’s opinion on any case he is faced with, with one of two courses either he will have to send the patient to Dublin or Portlaoise or the Surgeon will have to come from Dublin. Either answer to my mind is ridiculous.

The Chairman

I have given you an opportunity to raise points you had. We have had a full expression of views. We are grateful to the Councillors for their answers.

At this stage, it is up to you to decide what you are going to do. I am not going to give you any guidance, but in Newbridge they did propose a resolution and whether you decide or not is a matter for you. I will read you the Newbridge resolution. It is addressed to :-

Members of Kildare County Council
County Manager Kildare Co. Council
Secretary, Kildare Co. Council
Leinster Leader
Carlow Nationalist.     
                                       Dated 2nd November 1959

               Closing of Surgical Facilities at Kildare Hospital

On November 2nd 1959 at a public meeting representative of Droichead Nua and district the following resolution was passed unanimously:-

1.  That it is considered a vital necessity to the people of Kildare that surgical facilities 
      be retained within the County.

2.  That we consider that the decision of the County Council does not represent the
     views or interests of the people of this district.
3. That in light of information which has become available since the County     Council’s last meeting, and in view of the strong feelings of the public, we request
     that Kildare County Council call a special meeting to rescind their previous
     decision to dispense with surgical facilities within the County.
                                                                  (Signed) Monsignor Miller and J. B. Kearns.

Mr. Talbot 
I submit the following proposal;

1. That this meeting being fully representative of the Town, demands that Kildare Infirmary be retained as a Surgical Hospital until a more suitable Surgical Hospital can be found.

2. That the recommendations and suggestions of the County Surgeon be carried out forthwith.

3. That a permanent County Surgeon be appointed immediately.

4. That a special meeting of the County Council be called to rescind their motion and rescind their decision of 26th October dealing with the closing of the County Infirmary and to take steps for the implementation of paragraphs one, two and three of this resolution.

 Mr. Connolly 
 I have great pleasure in seconding Mr. Talbot’s resolution.

Dean Eaton   
I am wholeheartedly in favour of that resolution but I propose an amendment – that we delete the words “until a more suitable hospital is found.”

The Chairman
We had the original from Mr. Talbot which included the words “until a more suitable hospital be found in the county.’ We have a proposal that these words be deleted. Do I take it that this is the feeling of the meeting that they be deleted. I will now read the amended proposal to you. That the County Infirmary be retained as a Surgical Hospital for the County. Can I take that that is the unanimous decision of the meeting?

No dissenters.

Mr. Talbot

As far as I am concerned I will accept that amendment. I withdraw the original.

The Chairman

Now that a resolution is formed what are we to do with it?
Are we to do the same as Newbridge did? Is that the general idea?

This was agreed to.

This concluded the business of the meeting.

Rev. Father Swayne

“Rev. Fathers, Dean, Ladies and Gentlemen –

I am fully in agreement with those resolutions. I was not able to follow whether they were on the same lines as the Newbridge resolution but I think they are practically the same. I am very glad also that the amendment was passed. I too had in mind a resolution of that kind. I had thought of those words, but afterwards I was advised to leave them out. I am not sure if those resolutions cover all we want. I will depend on the Chairman to inform me.
The resolution is that the County Council meet as soon as possible to rescind their resolution and that the recommendations indicated by Mr. Ward and mentioned by Mr. Talbot, be carried out immediately. That of course means additional accommodation, this Children’s ward, the Installation of a Lift, Improved Theatre facilities, facilities for Outdoor Clinic- that all of these be carried out.

We are not sincere if we complain, if we are not prepared to carry out these improvements. These improvements cannot be carried out without expenditure. That may be what frightened Kildare County Council from facing up to their obligations by not carrying out those improvements, by not equipping the hospital as it should be equipped. We are afraid of expenditure so we send our patients for cheap treatment to Dublin. The County Council have left themselves open to the charge - the charge of false economy on the sick who need every care.

Nevertheless, I have lost faith in Kildare County Council. I am not so clear as to why a County Surgeon is not being appointed permanently. All those words about temporary this and temporary that, I don’t know what they mean. It means we are to lose our Hospital because there was no surgeon. Mr. Ward was to have no successor. So that is the root of the trouble. That is the beginning of the plan - appoint no Co. Surgeon - let Dr. Cannon have no successor and then we can deal with the simple Kildare people. This thing about temporary and part-time temporary, that sort of thing I am tired listening to and I am tired of listening to Kildare people complaining. I have stood between the people of Kildare and tried to keep them back from the throats of the County Council. You know that, each one of you. Those things were brought up again and again. Why isn’t there a visiting Committee as there was in the old days? Why isn’t there this and why isn’t there that. My answer always was ‘There are great things coming!! Wait till the Regional Committee gets going.’ That was a great bait of mine - it was a question of ‘Follow me up to Carlow! While I have not lost faith in Kildare County Council, I am not going to be deceived any longer. Why was there not a meeting called of that Medical Consultative Committee or whatever it is - that Committee of 10 men.
I have learned that they have done great work in the past. But to say that they can’t meet because there was no County Manager - that I can’t understand. I am quite sure they can cover the same ground as the Irish Medical Association of Kildare. Would it be breaking any secret - surely we must have heard that there was a full meeting of the Medical Association of the County in Naas and that every doctor in the County who could be there was present. I am not sure that that information is correct, but I do know that the statement made was the statement we would expect from their noble profession, that they spoke with unanimity and solidarity which does them great credit. I think not only should we call on the County Council, to meet and reverse their decision but we should also pass a resolution calling on the ‘Big Ten’ to meet immediately even though they may have to pass the same resolution - there are four imminent members of the medical profession and six Councillors on it – therefore it has plenty of wisdom and plenty of professional skill.
I propose a resolution that they meet immediately. We must make ourselves be heard.  We don’t want to be deluded again. We must rouse ourselves from the lethargy into which we have been lulled by the County Council, because as I have stated, the difficulties are due to the neglect of the County Council, because they have not visited the County Hospital - they have seen to it that there was no local Visiting Committee-they have seen to it that the Medical Committee has not met for two years. I accuse them therefore of neglect - I will not go back on that. While I accuse them of neglect, I do not accuse them of willful neglect. I hope they will be men enough to go back on their decision .I hope that everything I have said will be implemented and that there will be a resolution passed to call on the ‘Big Ten’ to meet and also to have a local Visiting Committee for the Hospital and although they will be a nuisance, they will be vocal.

The Chairman  in reply suggested that the easiest way to deal with this matter was to leave it to the Chairman of the County Council, The Chairman then asked if he would add an extra paragraph to the resolution demanding that the Health Committee meet immediately and regularly. This was agreed to.

As there were a number of people from Rathangan present, the Chairman then called on Councillor Byrne to address those present.

Mr. Byrne

“Rev Fathers, Rev. Dean, Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

I would like to first of all thank Fr. Swayne for keeping the people away from our throats. I would like to clear up one thing. At the Council meeting last Monday week
I did not vote for the simple reason that I was in another part of the building when this took place. I did not even turn over the pages of the agenda. Afterwards, after a discussion with our local doctor, I discovered that it was on the second page under the heading ‘Kildare Hospital Report.’ That to me was the same as it is every month - just another report.

I wish to state that I am quiet certain that the people of Rathangan are whole-heartedly with this meeting today. We in Rathangan are isolated and living in a bog area, as you all know we have very powerful machines on the bogs and are likely to have very serious accidents at any time. It would be a dreadful hardship on the people of Rathangan if the Kildare Hospital was closed. This is the view of the people of Rathangan”.

The Chairman

“I want to thank you all for coming here tonight, It does show an excellent public spirit. As always, when you are needed you are there. I would like to thank you for the way you supported the various speakers and for the way the meeting ran. I want to thank the speakers and finally the Councillors who came and answered the various questions, they answered fairly and justly. They now leave this meeting knowing the full feeling of the people of Kildare and district and we hope they will do their utmost to implement this resolution and they can be confident of the full support of this meeting in doing that.

Mr. Weir

I would like to pass a vote of thanks to the Chairman for the excellent way he conducted the meeting.

Fr. Swayne seconded.







(1) I think this may have in fact been the City of Cork Militia – it is a mistake often made because of the infamous cruelty of the North Cork Militia preceding and during the Rebellion of 1798 which made them memorable in popular accounts. However it was the City of Cork Militia under Captain Swayne that was decimated at Prosperous and again this Regiment who defeated the rebels at Rathangan. There is reference to Captain Swayne being at Kildare in 1797.

Thanks as always to Stephen Talbot for his generosity in sharing his knowledge and resources and indeed the Talbot family for preserving the Minutes of the meeting which may otherwise have been lost.

[This article was transcribed by Breid as part of an ongoing Cill Dara Historical Society Project dedicated to the ehnancement of our knowledge of the history and heritage of the town. My thanks to the Society for this and for all their work in the promotion of the history of Kildare Town and the surrounding districts.]

The Minutes of a meeting held in Kildare Town on 3 November 1959 to discuss the proposed closure of St. Brigid's Hospital, Kildare. My thanks to Stephen Talbot who made the Minutes available.

Posted by mariocorrigan at June 12, 2007 11:14 PM