No decision has been made on the future of Abbeyleix and Shaen hospitals, according to Joseph Ruane, HSE Area Manager for the Midlands.
Last week, the HSE published ‘Older Person Services – Consultation and Information Document’ which sets out the public consultation process regarding the potential closure of the two community nursing units. The Area manager denied that the closure of Abbeyleix and Shaen was still in pipeline.
“No decision has been made yet. There is a new protocol regarding consulting residents and next of kin, this is detailed in the consultation guidelines. We are the first in the country to use this new protocol,” he said.
He said that no beds would close during the consultation process, and where a unit was able to admit a respite patient, via the joint placement scheme, they would.
Mr Ruane repeated the various challenges facing the HSE at the minute, which resulted in the HSE announcing the closure of the two Laois nursing homes.
“We have various challenges which we have to face – budget constraints, demographics, HIQA standards, we have to look at the model of care.
“There was a plan to consolidate nine nursing homes in Laois, Offaly, Longford and Westmeath into seven, and as a result the closure of Shaen and Abbeyleix was proposed. These two units were identified as they have the least number of beds that are HIQA compliant,” he said.
Mr Ruane claimed that there was an oversupply of beds available in the Midlands with 1,712 beds across the four counties where a total number of 1,228 beds are required – just 4% of the over 65 population.
According to the HSE the consultation will give the residents/clients, the public and others an opportunity to discuss the future. The first step in the process, according to Mr Ruane has been completed, and letters have been sent to the residents affected, and their next of kin, notifying them that the HSE is contemplating making a decision to recommend to the Minister for Health the closure of a unit and providing them with an information document and informing them about the nature of the consultation process and format.
The HSE also intend to carry out a multidisciplinary health review of each resident and a report will be prepared. Separately an appropriate medical person, who is not involved with the unit, will carry out a paper based review of the multidisciplinary reports and prepare a medical assessment report for consideration by the person appointed by the HSE to make the decision about whether the unit should or should not be closed.
“The decision will be dependent on the residents, it is important to identify their desires,” Mr Ruane said.
In the second month of the three month process, meetings will take place with residents and other interested parties including staff, unions, elected public representatives and action groups.
“All interested parties will be asked to provide a written submission. I did receive a detail proposal from Shaen, it was an excellent proposal and the decision maker will consider it. I had two productive meetings with the Action Groups, but I haven’t received a formal proposal from Abbeyleix.
“We will specifically provide an opportunity for formal one to one meetings with residents and their next of kin, staff and unions, public representatives and interested groups including the action committees of both hospitals.”
The consultation process will end on August 14.
Mr Ruane denied that the HSE had been forced into the consultation process, which was announced last December by the public protests which have taken place or political pressure.
“Not a question of being forced into it, we gave a commitment to the consultation process in November. No decision has been made yet. We never committed to start this before Christmas, but hoped it would happen in early 2012,” he said.
Mr Ruane stressed that the preparation of the 82 page document on the consultation process had not been within the remit of the HSE in the midlands, but was a national policy document.
“Different voices needed to have input into the document. Personally, I would have like to launch this earlier, but I would prefer that it is done right.”
“This is the first time something like this has taken place in HSE, individuals and groups will have opportunity to state their views. The HSE will consider any and all submissions,” Mr Ruane said but he stressed that he would not be the one making the final decision.
The future of Shaen and Abbeyleix lie in the hands of the designated officer, who is the Regional Director of Operations.