A protest was held outside Aras Chill Dara on Monday afternoon against the December closure of a walk in medical service for 482 families living in The Curragh Camp, open since the 1970’s.
Protestors, made up of wives, partners, family and friends of soilders in the Curragh, appealed to local councillors for their support in their request to the Minister for Defence, Alan Shatter, to overturn the decision.
“A lot of people have ongoing medical issues,” said Ann Byrne. “What happens to them after December? You don’t stop being sick.”
Fellow protestor Tina White said they can’t take any more cuts.
“Our husbands can’t take any more,” she said. “They [Department of Defence] can’t just pull the rope without any discussion about it. All we got was a letter to say it was closing in three months. We have had several pay cuts and moral is already very low - this is a push too far. We are going to fight this and we want the Minister to meet with us.”
Those gathered outside the council offices also felt there was a wider issue at stake - that of the gradual isolation of the families still living in the Curragh Camp. They described the camp, where they grew up, as now being a ‘depressing place’ to live and rear families. They also raised concerns whether they will all be eligible for a medical card and if they will find a GP willing to take them on nearby before Christmas.
“They are pulling the support,” said Rachel Degan. “Evicting people from their homes and making people feel isolated. It is a depressing place up there with houses boarded up. What is happening is disgraceful - bit by bit they are stripping us down and taking away people’s confidence.”
The Curragh Families Clinic, which was used by 1,131 patiens in 2012 at a cost of €150,000 per year, was described as a ‘historical hangover’ by the Defence Forces ‘dating back to a time when all families of enlisted personnel received medical services under regulations’.
According to the Defence Forces the entitlement to medical services, including free GP and pharmacy services, for military families was formally removed from Regulations in 1987. However, the Curragh Families Clinic was retained because of the difficulty in obtaining GP or pharmacy services in the Curragh area at the time. “This is no longer the case,” said a department spokesperson.
“There have been no new families accepted into the clinic since 2008. It is important to note that the families affected will still have the same rights to access public health services as other families of enlisted personnel. However in recognition that the closure of the clinic may cause some inconvenience to existing patients, 3 months notice is being provided, during which time existing services will be maintained. This will allow families to transfer to local GP’s and apply for medical cards/GP visit cards.”