Hospital future rests with Minister

FROM a void of information to an 82-page detailed report, the HSE has published a document in which it says it will consult and recommend a decision, but that a Government Minister will have the final say on Abbeyleix and Shaen Hospitals.

FROM a void of information to an 82-page detailed report, the HSE has published a document in which it says it will consult and recommend a decision, but that a Government Minister will have the final say on Abbeyleix and Shaen Hospitals.

Nearly six months after being forced to consult on closure plans, the executive published a document entitled ‘Older Persons Services, HSE Midlands, Information and Consultation’ last week.

The report does two things. It sets out the nursing home landscape in the midlands and the position of St Brigid’s Shaen and the Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit. In the information section of the report, the HSE makes clear that it is still “contemplating” closure. The report also publishes the consultation process ordered in the High Court.

The HSE has declined to bring in an independent party in any part of the consultation process. Without any reference to outside expertise, the executive will lead the consultation and a senior HSE manager will consider the evidence and make a recommendation to the Minister for Health, James Reilly .

“The Minister makes the decision and this should be communicated to the HSE,” says the HSE on the final page of the document.

The HSE says it wants to submit its decision to the Minister by August 14 this year, but it does not put a time frame on when he will make his decision or when it will be announced.

It plans to begin consultations with residents and families of patients as well as staff and unions on June 5 to end on June 22, although letters have already been sent out. Talks with politicians and interested parties start on July 2 to end on July 13. Written submissions must be made between May 24 and July 20.

The HSE says it will prepare reports on the consultation process and the written responses by August 2. It also plans to publish these reports.

Local management will have a week to respond to these reports. A senior HSE Manager will consider the consultation from August 8 to 14 with the HSE decision going to the Minister on August 14.

Last week’s report does not directly back closure but it sails close to doing just that. Overall, the executive says Laois and Offaly are out of step with Westmeath and Longford in not using more private nursing homes for elderly care.

“The HSE is proposing to consolidate the number of community nursing units in the Midlands. As part of this proposal the HSE is contemplating making a decision to the Minister for Health that Abbeyleix and Shaen should or should not be closed and is engaging in a consultation process in relation to its potential decision,” says the report.

Just a couple of paragraphs later it makes clear the the two Laois hospitals are vulnerable.

“The HSE is contemplating making a decision to recommend to the Minister for Health the closure of Abbeyleix (n=28) and Shaen (n=27) by virtue of them having the least bed capacity in line with current 2015 Hiqua requirements,” it says.

The executive says it would tender respite and day care to private providers. It says it will also organise the transfer of patients if a unit closes. Detailed plans are set out over the procedures to be followed if Abbeyleix and Shaen close.

Money is a big factor and the HSE published the costs of running all of its public nursing units in the midlands. Both Shaen and Abbeyleix are costly. At €2,472 Shaen has the highest weekly patient bed costs. At over €1,900 per patient a week Abbeyleix is the third most expensive.

The HSE says it wants to strengthen services for older people by moving to a patient centred model. It says it wants to achieve this when there are reducing budgets while ensuring value for money.

The report is available from http://www.hse.ie/eng/services/Publications/services/Older/Older_Person_Services_Consultation_and_Information_Document.pdf