Sinn Féin Deputy Pearse Doherty is today calling on Minister of State at the Department of Health Jim Daly T.D. to clearly outline the plans being considered by health chiefs for the future of Donegal’s Community Hospitals and older persons services when he visits the county tomorrow.
The Donegal T.D.’s comments come as anger continues to mount over the ‘snail pace progress’ being made by both Government and the HSE to progress and sanction funding for the proposed redevelopment of St Joseph’s and Ramelton Community Hospital.
He added that little is still known about what is planned for health services housed at Lifford hospital post 2021.
He urged Minister Daly to allay locally fears and to commit to the delivery of these projects.
He said “The lack of clarity and misinformation coming from Government for the past three and half years over the future make up and provision of Community Hospital and older persons services in Donegal has been totally unacceptable and wrong.
“The communities of Lifford, Stranorlar and Ballybofey, and Ramelton have been kept almost completely in the dark by both the government and the HSE with respect to the fates of long stay residential services at their local community hospitals.
“They were originally told by government that all three units would be closing to make way for a new facility ear marked for Letterkenny under the HSE’s five year programme of investment in public nursing homes.
“The Minister was then forced into an embarrassing U-Turn when the local communities came together and – in a show of strength – made their opposition to the plans known, with crowds even taking to the streets on a number of occasions in protest such was the anger felt by local residents, staff and the families of service users.
“And while impressive campaign to force the government to reverse its plans to close these units succeeded, we are still no closer to seeing the promise to have the units at St Joseph’s and Ramelton proceed to construction as the government continues to delay making the necessary funding available to finance them.
“Meanwhile, we discovered only a few weeks ago that the HSE may be about to throw good money after bad as it intends to shortly spend hundreds of thousands of euro on minor refurbishment works at both facilities in order to ensure that they adhere to HIQA regulations and standards set down for older persons services.
“Moreover, and despite me having repeatedly raised this matter with the Minister on the floor of the Dáil in recent years, government has failed to yet give any details into what options are being explored by health bosses to ensure the development and continuation of services at Lifford hospital going forward.
“Instead, the Minister has so far only put it on record that community based options for Lifford will be reviewed further post 2021 and that, in the interim at least, the hospital will remain operational.
“I repeat the accusation that I levelled at Government on a number of occasions now when I said that they have acted shamefully and in bad faith in how they’ve mishandled these projects, and in particular by the drip feeding of misinformation which they’ve peddled to these communities for well over three years now.
“I understand that Minister Daly intends to pay a visit to Lifford Community Hospital when he travels to the county this Tuesday and, while I welcome that the Minister has decided to come to Donegal, I intend to use the opportunity of his visit to press upon him the need to urgently commit to the delivery of these redevelopment projects at St Joseph’s and Ramelton, while I will also be calling on him to clarify what the future holds for the provision of hospital services at Lifford.”