DESPITE spending overruns at the Department of Health and the likelihood of further cuts in next month’s Budget, St Ita’s Hospital in Newcastle West is in “no danger” of bed closures in the short term.
Fergus Scanlan, chairman of the Friends of St Ita’s Hospital charitable group, said that informal indications are that services “will remain as they are” at the Gortboy community hospital in 2013.
Ten beds were closed at the hospital earlier this year, following previous cuts to respite care beds due to a staff recruitment embargo. At present, there are almost 100 beds in the hospital in rehabilitation, respite care, continuing care and short stay wards.
Minister for Health Dr James Reilly received a tour of St Ita’s Hospital during a visit to Limerick last month, and Mr Scanlan said that Dr Reilly was “very pleased” with the quality of the facilities.
However, the minister “wasn’t in a position to make any commitments” with regards to staffing at the hospital’s €2 million palliative care ward, which has been largely unused since it was opened in 2008 due to the recruitment embargo. Mr Scanlan said that the Friends of St Ita’s extended an invitation for the minister to visit the hospital after members of the group met with him in Dublin in February.
Mr Scanlan said that while the HSE’s ongoing recruitment embargo “is crippling everything”, the Friends of St Ita’s are pressing ahead with plans to build a new €1.2 million rehabilitation facility. The 797 square metre ward, which will be built on to the existing rehabilitation ward, will see up to 20 new beds being made available at the hospital, with no extra requirements for staffing.
A decision had been expected from Limerick County Council on the plans in September, but Mr Scanlan said that “slight technicalities” with the designs have delayed the application. However, he said that “the funding is in place, and we hope to see a start on that in the new year”.
Meanwhile, the Friends of St Ita’s are to hold their annual fundraising fashion show at the Courtenay Lodge Hotel in Newcastle West on Friday, November 16. This year’s event will be jointly held with the Newcastle West Agricultural Show committee.