Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has called on the Government to finally act on the issues outstanding concerning three Donegal Community Hospitals – Lifford, Ramelton and St Joseph’s in Stranorlar.
The Donegal TD said the situation surrounding these three hospitals remains unresolved since January 2016, when at that time the long stay bed capacity of all three hospitals was placed in doubt due to a Government decision to replace such services in those hospitals, as per the decision taken by them then.
He said “In the intervening period of over 2 years there have been many false dawns and fake news press releases, but, the substantive issue remains unresolved by this Government – that the future services and capacities of these hospitals has not been guaranteed by the Department of Health and the HSE and that is just no longer acceptable. The Government have failed to confirm their position regarding these Community Hospitals time and time again.”
Pat the Cope added following representations by him, on an ongoing basis, he understands that a submission is with the Minister for some time, which he is lead to believe will deal effectively with two of the three hospitals, but no political decision has been taken by the Government thus far on that submission made by HSE within the region .
And he added “I furthermore do not accept the argument that Lifford Hospital must be treated differently, there is an onus of responsibility on the Government to treat all three hospitals the same and to solve the outstanding issues. I would also caution the Government that the decision which they take, must be time framed for immediate action; this would require an amendment to the existing Capital Plan of the HSE – as the current plan does not make adequate provision for these three hospitals in the context of long stay accommodation. A multi million euro and multi annual investment plan will be required in order to make all three hospital satisfy the HIQA standards post 2021/2026 scenario, it is only in this context can we confidently believe the long term future of the bed capacities of the hospitals.”
He said he is seriously concerned that there is a concerted effort on the part of the Government to separate Lifford Community Hospital out of the solution which potentially may resolve the issues at the other two hospitals Ramelton and Stranorlar.
“Lifford deserves to be treated equally and in the same manner and timeline as the other two hospitals, after this entire debacle was created by a decision by the previous Fine Gael Government. The current suggestion is that Lifford will be dealt in a post 2021 scenario, whereby further census data will be required in order to justify the unit in Lifford is not acceptable by me.
“I have been made aware that the plan before the Minister subject to his approval only effectively deals with St Joseph’s and Ramelton, but it remains unclear whether the Government will act within the current budget proposals or wait post 2021, I am calling on the Department to deal with the hospitals as an immediate priority as it clear the essential role and pivotal need there is for these three hospitals.
Pat the Cope further added it is now imperative that the Government deal comprehensively with these three hospitals and an action plan or a route map for their upgrade and improvement be agreed in the first instance and secondly an agreed time lined within the term of this existing Government be guaranteed.
“A delayed decision which potentially could see the necessary solution for these hospitals put beyond the term of this Government will not be accepted, this issue warrants immediate action and a concrete solution to be put in place.
“The Government must immediately reverse the decision of January 2016 – this will require an amendment to the existing policy to downgrade the bed capacity of these hospitals, the amendment must incorporate an entire solution for all three hospitals namely St Joseph’s, Ramelton and Lifford. The necessary capital works must be funded out of the current capital funding envelope for HSE community hospitals – therefore an additional budget must be identified by the HSE and Government to bring about the necessary upgrades at the hospitals.
“The bed capacity and bed usage must be further guaranteed by the HSE and Government in all three hospitals in order to allay fears within the respective communities. Finally, the action plan for securing the futures of these three hospitals must have full buy in from the respective communities and action groups and a genuine commitment from the Government to deliver these projects as per the agreed plan.
“It is self-evident, that too much time has been wasted by Government inaction on these three hospitals and presently we are still awaiting a Ministerial decision to secure the bed capacity and appropriate funding for these hospitals, this delayed action on the part of the Minister is not helping confidence of the public in the process or convincing them of the genuineness of the Government commitment to these projects. I am calling for immediate action on the part of the Minister, HSE and the Government and that their decision is backed up by the necessary resources in order to secure the services and capacities of these hospitals,” concluded Pat the Cope.