NO resident of St Ita’s Hospital in Newcastle West or St Camillus’ in Limerick will lose their place against their wishes, the HSE has said after bed closures at the facilities for the elderly were confirmed in the HSE West service plan this week.
The Limerick Leader earlier this month reported on HSE plans to close 10 out of 102 beds at St Ita’s and these cuts - as well as 13 beds out of 134 at St Camillus’ - have now been adopted in the plan and approved by the Minister for Health James Reilly. Both hospitals have already lost beds in recent years.
But Bernard Gloster, HSE area manager for primary, community and continuing care, has insisted nobody will be forced out.
“We would wish to stress that these reductions are necessary for a combination of staffing reasons and regulatory compliance issues,” Mr Gloster stated.
“Bed closures in these facilities will be subject to ongoing review in terms of available staffing. It is important to stress that no patient currently in a bed in St Ita’s or St Camillus’ will be displaced against their wishes and the beds will only be close as they become vacant.”
Reacting to the plan, Fianna Fail’s Deputy Niall Collins said it had “confirmed our fears of significant cuts to community health services in Limerick this year”.
“People fear that this downgrading is just the thin end of the wedge and the Government is moving towards shutting down these units altogether. In the case of St Ita’s, Minister Reilly has already shut down 17 beds at the facility. Just a few short months later, he is closing a further 10 beds. People are worried it is being wound down by stealth,” said Deputy Collins.
Dozens of beds being closed this year at St Ita’s, St Camillus’ and at St Joseph’s Hospital would pile further pressure on acute hospitals, he added.
“It will push elderly patients onto the Midwestern Regional Hospital, which is already under severe pressure,” he said.
The Mid-Western Regional Hospital will have to cope with this additional pressure with less money and fewer staff in 2012.
The hospital sees its budget slashed from €138 million in 2011 to €123 million this year - a cut of almost 11 per cent. In contrast, Galway University Hospital is seeing a cut of eight per cent.
IMPACT’s Andy Pike said this is only the latest in successive annual plans in which Limerick hospitals have been hit harder than in Galway.
“No credible explanation for this disparity has been provided by the HSE which is well aware of the chronic overcrowding at Mid-Western Regional Hospital,” said Mr Pike.
Disproportionate cutbacks in Limerick meant Mr Pike could “only conclude that someone, somewhere in the HSE is pursuing a vendetta against the Mid-West”.