Explaining its decision HSE West said all other primary care and day services will continue as normal.
They said in a statement: “Since the moratorium on recruitment was introduced to the end of February 2012 a total of 61.7 staff will have left the community hospital services in Donegal.
“This includes 36 nursing staff. In order to maintain patient safety there is a need to consolidate residential care at a smaller number of locations.”
The statement went on: “The provision of a safe and quality service is paramount to the HSE. The intention to close the unit was taken on the basis that the capacity to continue to deliver a safe service is not possible in view of the reducing financial allocation across all HSE services, continued reductions in staff numbers, (in line with plans to reduce the overall number of staff working in the public sector) and the difficulty in meeting future HIQA Standards, in particular the standard for physical environment.”
John Hayes, Area Manager for Donegal assured patients, families and staff that there will be no change until a full consultation process is undertaken during the next three months.
Residents will have the option to transfer to other HSE units or opt for care in private nursing homes at no additional cost. There will be no loss of jobs. All discussions with staff will be facilitated through their unions in line with the Croke Park Agreement.
Said the HSE: “Lifford Community Hospital currently operates 11 beds for long stay patients plus respite services. Lifford Community Hospital is the oldest community hospital building in Donegal and was first built as an army barracks in 1798.
“While improvements have been made to the fabric of the building services are provided from four nightingale wards, three single rooms and one twin bed room.
“The viability of retaining 11 community hospitals / nursing units in Donegal has been under discussion for some time.
“The HSE acknowledges the excellent commitment and high level of care always shown by staff at Lifford Hospital, to both the patients and their fellow staff members.”
The health care organisation said the moratorium on recruitment means that staff resources need to be deployed to maintain safe and efficient services in a reduced number of community hospitals
It claimed the cost of care per resident is now “not sustainable in comparison to other units and the private sector.”
It added that there is existing capacity within the local public and private residential facilities to accommodate the 11 long term residents in Lifford based on their preference. It is proposed to retain existing bed capacity in other units – other than short term closures necessitated by upgrading or temporary staffing issues.