Hospital future major challenge for new Minister

 Paul Healy & Paul Hickey  The appointment of Michael Finneran as Roscommon’s first Minister of State in sixteen years was widely welcomed this week after Taoiseach Brian Cowen confirmed that he was promoting the Roscommon/South Leitrim TD. Minister Finneran is returning in triumph to Roscommon tonight (Thursday) for what promises to be a major celebration.     Minister Finneran faces a daunting work schedule as his appointment coincides with a period of great uncertainty about the future of Roscommon Hospital. There was further bleak news on the health front in the past twenty-four hours with the news that the Health Service Executive is to withdraw €4 million funding that had been allocated for a dedicated eight-bed hospice support unit at Roscommon County Hospital (see page 11). That revelation has caused a huge furore, with the CEO of Mayo/Roscommon Hospice, Cynthia Clampett, describing  the withdrawal of funding as ‘like being hit over the head with a sledgehammer’.   Minister Finneran was appointed by the Government to the Department of Environment, Heritage, and Local Government, on the second of three hugely dramatic days in County Roscommon this week.    On Monday night Deputy Finneran was strongly criticised for failing to attend a public meeting on the future of Roscommon Hospital in the Abbey Hotel. This week Minister Deputy Finneran said that he has sought a meeting with Health Minister Mary Harney to discuss the proposed changes at Roscommon County Hospital and Portiuncula Hospital.   Deputy Finneran’s appointment as a Junior Minister ends County Roscommon’s 16 year Ministerial drought, and it has been welcomed by representatives of all the major political parties in Roscommmon. Minister Finneran’s colleagues in Fianna Fáil have all expressed congratulations and confidence that the appointment will pay dividends for the county.  His Dáil colleagues Denis Naughten TD and Frank Feighan have also welcomed the appointment, as have the Hospital Action Committee.  Special report on Finneran appointment: pages 29-36