There was a guarded welcome to the Health Minister’s visit to Abbeyleix from local public representatives, but only one was in Abbeyleix to meet with Minister James Reilly.
Labour Senator John Whelan, the only public representative present during the Minister’s visit said he spent a considerable amount of time listening to the patients themselves.
“Many of the patients, especially some of the women, did not mince their words when it came to impressing upon the Minister the importance of the hospital to them and the community, and how they wished to remain living there and for the unit to remain open. Minister Reilly, to his credit, took these views on board in good faith and spoke at length to many of the patients, including Mrs Brigid O’ Neill, who was one of those who took a High Court action in a bid to prevent the HSE from closing the Abbeyleix unit.”
Sen Whelan said he was more optimistic about the future of the Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit following the Minister’s brief visit.
“I urge the HSE to use this opportunity to engage in meaningful consultations not only with the patients and their families, but with the Action Committee and all the stakeholders who have an interest and part to play in ensuring the retention and development of the community nursing home. “
Fine Gael TD, Charlie Flanagan said he has been speaking to the Minister for Health and the HSE “outside the media glare.” Although, he was not with the Minister when he visited Abbeyleix, last Saturday, Deputy Flanagan he was speaking with the Minister “before, during and after” his visit. Deputy Flanagan said he will continue to make a strong case to keep Abbeyleix open.
“I am delighted that the Minster visited to see first hand the structure of the building and the level of care in Abbeyleix. He was able to engage with some of the residents on a one to one basis in a private capacity.
“I had a lengthy discussion with Minister Reilly following his visit and he has assured me he will engage with the HSE with a view towards attempting to seek a resolution. I have impressed upon the Minister the importance of Abbeyleix to the community of south Laois, how it caters for a broad catchment area and that retention is a priority,” he said.
Welcoming the Minister’s visit, Sinn Fein TD, Brian Stanley said it should not just be a political gesture.
“I welcome the visit by the Minister as it will have provided him with the opportunity to see at first hand the excellent facilities and the efforts of staff to provide first class care for the residents in Abbeyleix.
“Minister Reilly’s visit must not simply be a political gesture in the middle of the culling of public nursing home provision by this Government. The outrageous announcements under the watch of this Fine Gael/Labour Government to close two out of the three public nursing homes in our county must be immediately revoked.