DISQUIET over plans to remove a Catholic chapel and other places of worship at Letterkenny General Hospital has led to calls for public consultation on the thorny issue.
It follows revelations in the Donegal News on Friday that management are in the early stages of discussions with religious representatives to replace the chapel, the Church of Ireland oratory and other religious places of prayer with an inter-denominational “room or space” as part of refurbishment plans following the July flood.
Despite requests to hospital management, through the HSE, they are remaining tight lipped. However, the plans have generated disquiet and deep concerns among staff and visitors as there has been a dedicated Catholic chapel in the hospital since it was first built. The chapel has been closed since the flood necessitating visitors, patients and staff having to go across the road to the chapel at St Conal’s for prayers.
Speaking on Friday, the Mayor of Letterkenny, Cllr Paschal Blake, a local undertaker and former nurse in St Conal’s, said he would be deeply saddened if the closure of the catholic chapel came to pass.
“As a former member of staff, I’d be very disappointed and saddened if the plans came to pass. As somebody who worked in the hospital it is common for staff to visit the chapel before beginning a day’s work,”
“But, we are moving into a situation where healthcare standards nationally are changing and there are rules and regulations to comply to govern all denominations rather than a singular faith. If that’s the way forward there be no choice but to comply. However, I feel due to the disquiet the issue and the fact it is in the early stages the plans should be brought to the public for discussions, ” he said.
In Friday’s paper Fr Eamon Kelly, Adminstrator of St Eunan’s Cathedral confirmed the moves were afoot.
“It seems the Catholic people of Donegal are going to lose their church within the hospital,” he said.
“There has always been a Catholic chapel in the hospital since it was built but now the plan is to have an interdenominational room or space – which is good to have – but not the same as a having our own chapel. Following talks it now appears there will be a small room reserved for the presence of the blessed sacrament- again this is to be welcomed- but is not a dedicated chapel. I understand the plans are part of HSE – management policy to reduce requirements for all different faiths,” he said.
Meanwhile, member of the Friends of Letterkenny General Hospital, said he believed there was enough scope for each denomination to have a mass/service each day without the hospital or anyone being disenfranchised. Peace Commissioner, Mr Peter Cutliffe , said it’s a ‘sad day’ if all denominations couldn’t be accommodated in the current discussions on the hospital chapel.