THE number of mental health patients resident at St Joseph’s Hospital is now down to 16 and the HSE said it was committed to finding a more appropriate care setting for those who remain despite financial pressures.
Bernard Gloster, area manager for non-acute services in Limerick and the Mid-West, recalled that when he started working for the health board in the 1980s, there were 700 patients at the Mulgrave Street hospital.
Moving patients out of outdated residential institutions into more appropriate care settings was identified in the Vision for Change document as far back as 2006.
While the HSE has no date on when the remaining patients can be moved out, Mr Gloster highlighted progress made in recent years.
“A first group would have gone to specially-built bungalows on the campus of the Daughters of Charity, Lisnagry because they were more intellectual disability patients than mental health - so that was more appropriate to their needs. Another group went to ordinary nursing homes. They were quite old and were fine to go into a nursing home. And another group went to medium and high-support hostels operated by the mental health service out in the community. For example there is a high-support residence in Parteen called Inis Gile which looks after a group at a very intensive level.”
Non-acute services in the HSE Mid-West had a budget of €310 million in 2012 and as Minister James Reilly looks to make a further €780 million in savings nationally in 2013, Mr Gloster conceded the HSE faced a challenge in finding a new home for the remaining patients in St Joseph’s.
“We have to look at what is the best and most appropriate type of facility we can find to continue to support them into the future. They do require a particular type of response and we have to see if we can achieve that within the type of budgetary parameters we have - but we are very committed to it,” he said.
But Mr Gloster could not give a target date for the closure of the wards at St Joseph’s - after which it is envisaged the hospital campus will be given over to HSE offices and other services.
“It would give hostage to fortune for us to give a date other than to say it is most likely in the current climate that we will have to come with a solution within what we have. And that is why it is taking a bit more time and is a bit more complex.”