THE HSE has confirmed that ten beds are to be closed at St Ita’s Hospital in Newcastle West as a result of staff cuts and “regulatory issues”.
The move will see the total number of beds at the community hospital reduced to 92, following the closure last September of 17 respite care beds.
The HSE said in a statement that a decision will be made by the end of the month “as to whether these will be from the long or short stay section of the hospital”.
It is understood that tougher health and safety standards laid down by HIQA have contributed to the bed closures.
The move has been criticised by Fianna Fail TD Niall Collins, who has accused Health Minister Dr James Reilly of “an agenda to target community hospitals”.
“St Ita’s is an excellent facility that has provided a high quality of care to hundreds of patients locally throughout the years. To downgrade this facility will only push patients into our public hospitals, which are already suffering overcrowding problems. It simply doesn’t make sense.
“Since coming into power, Minister Reilly has been pursuing an agenda of shutting down community hospital and public nursing home units across the country. St Ita’s has clearly been targeted”.
The bed closures will come as a blow to the hospital and the Friends of St Ita’s community group, whose members met with Dr Reilly in Dublin last Week.
Fergus Scanlan, chairman of the Friends of St Ita’s, said that the group told the Minister of their “disappointment and annoyance” at staff and funding cuts at the hospital.