HSE pledges no further elderly care bed closures in Limerick

Mike Dwane


Mike Dwane

THE HSE’s head of non-acute care in the Mid-West has said he is “100% committed” to retaining the current number of beds for the elderly at St Ita’s and St Camillus’ Hospitals.

THE HSE’s head of non-acute care in the Mid-West has said he is “100% committed” to retaining the current number of beds for the elderly at St Ita’s and St Camillus’ Hospitals.

Both hospitals have lost a significant number of beds in recent years but Bernard Gloster said that while 2013 would be another financially challenging year for the HSE, he did not anticipate further bed closures at either hospital.

In December 2005, there were 230 beds at St Camillus’, including long-stay residential, rehabilitation, respite and old age psychiatry. And at St Ita’s, there were 142 beds in total at the end of 2005.

Today, this has been reduced to 92 beds at St Ita’s and 121 – including 21 old-age psychiatry beds – at St Camillus.

But Mr Gloster said that the reductions have not been as stark as the figures suggest as the HSE has since last year counted only open beds, whereas the 2005 figure included beds the HSE was unable to staff.

“Up to that point, beds were being counted historically, even though there weren’t enough staff to look after them,” he said.

“We did close some of our elderly care beds (during 2012) but nothing like we had envisaged at the start of the year. We reorganised the way we have allocated staff to beds to try and achieve a greater efficiency. St Ita’s is now down to 92 beds and I am certainly 100 per cent committed to not going below that,” Mr Gloster said.

“While I was out there recently on a visit with the minister [Dr James Reilly], he was very impressed by the type of service that is provided there. He visited St Camillus’ the same day. St Camillus’ is currently operating at around 100 beds between short-stay, rehab and long-stay and again we are committed to maintaining that,” Mr Gloster.

But Limerick city and county faced a significant challenge in meeting demand in the area in the coming years and in ensuring the elderly are cared for in appropriate settings.

“The figures for the population tell us that by 2015 we are going to be short of long-stay beds when you add the public and private together so that is a real challenge for Limerick. And it doesn’t take a lot of thought to realise that buildings like St Camillus’ or St Ita’s present huge challenges in terms of regulatory requirements - and that it a capital issue,” he said.

Mr Gloster said the non-acute services delivered in the Mid-West in 2012 would be so done within budget. This was despite delivering more home help hours in 2012 than had been budgeted for at the start of the year and in spite of the cuts in home help hours regional managers were being obliged to make by the HSE nationally in the final quarter of the year. It also came in spite of a huge increase in demand for medical cards linked to the recession.

“The system is under massive demand from every quarter. That is just a feature of life, of the recession, of the demographic profile. But it is important to reflect within all of that that within the mid-west non-acute services, we go out of this year with probably the best record in resource management in all of the HSE West,” Mr Gloster said.

“That did not come easily. But we also come out of this year having delivered a new primary care centre in King’s Island, which was a very visible event that people saw; having delivered in excess of the home help hours that we were originally contracted for and having continued to provide a lot of the services the community relies on us to deliver.”