Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher Leas Cheann Comhairle has raised questions over the government’s policy regarding three Donegal Community Hospitals.
The Donegal Deputy sought answers from Department of Health and the HSE on the issue of long stay accommodation beds at St Joseph’s Community Hospital, Lifford Community Hospital and Ramelton Community Hospital. The reply from the Minister for Health, Pat the Cope said, was ‘shocking in content’ as plans are ‘less than clear’.
Pat the Cope said: “Despite different political utterances from various Government representatives, the constant and consistent reply from the Department, Minister and the HSE is that the decision to remove long stay accommodation beds from the three hospitals remains the policy of the HSE.
“It is now essential that the original decision of the 26th of January 2016 to downgrade the three hospitals be rescinded and a funding package be put in place to bring the three hospitals up to the required standards, in order to guarantee their long term future as long stay accommodation units in their respective communities.
Pat the Cope added – in the reply I received to my Dáil question from the Minister for Health and the HSE on the 13th of February, the Minister for Health stated the following:
“Under the Capital Investment Programme for Community Nursing Units, announced in January 2016, a decision was made to build a new 130 bed community nursing unit in Letterkenny by the end of 2021, through a Public Private Partnership or alternative funding model.
“This decision relates to long term residential services, and is separate to, and independent of, any consideration of the other services currently provided in the three Community Hospitals.
“The decision reflected the fact that these hospitals were not considered to be appropriate for use as long-stay residential care homes in the medium term.”
Pat the Cope expressed his alarm at the Minister’s reply: “The reply which I obtained from the Minister is shocking in content and in the context of the various discussions and negotiations which action groups and public representatives were having with the HSE and Department of Health, since the decision was made in 2016 by the previous Government.
“In April 2017 we were lead to believe that funding of almost € 3 million was approved, that plans had been submitted to the HSE then and that the problems relating to the long stay accommodation were resolved – this amounted to nothing more than fake news – made for cynical political gain only but without any basis in fact as is proven subsequently by the various replies from the Minister.
“It is evident that there is absolutely no certainty to the future of these services in the three hospitals in question. I called on the Minister to rescind the decision of the 26th of January but he declined to reply to the specific request by me, which leads me to believe that all options are still being actively considered by this Government.
“The communities which rely on these Hospitals deserve better and it is now time that the Government finally come clean with their intentions regarding the community hospitals.
“I am fully supportive of the retention of the long stay accommodation services / units in the three hospitals,” concluded Pat the Cope.