Letters sent to patients in Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit are been seen as a clear signal of the HSE’s continued intention to close to hospital.
Signed by the general manager, Primary Community and Continuing Care, the letters say they wish to inform the patients that “the HSE is contemplating making a decision to close the nursing home” and to arrange for the transfer to a suitable alternative nursing home.
The letter, dated December 9, states that before deciding whether to close the nursing home or making any transfer decisions, the HSE “proposes to engage in a consultation process in relation to its potential decisions.”
At no point does the letter mention the possibility of the hospital remaining open after the consultation period and instead informs the patients that if they or anyone authorised to act on their behalf wishes to make representation regarding any aspect of the potential decisions of the HSE, there will be an opportunity to do so during the consultation process.
There is no date for the start of these consultations, with the HSE stating that they will be writing to the patients further in relation to the consultation process.
The letter has been described as an attempt by the HSE to ‘blagard patients and push through with their decision to close the hospital in 12 weeks time,’ by Labour Senator, John Whelan.
He said he was astonished by these letters which had been sent to the patients and their families.
“It’s double-cross and treacherous behaviour,” he said.
“The HSE made a solemn pledge before the President of the High Court to enter into meaningful consultations. But it is apparent that the process they have entered into doesn’t adhere to the spirit or the letter of the law.”
Senator Whelan said their letter was “tantamount to contempt of court.”
The Labour senator said the HSE must engage with all stakeholders in the hospital including the staff, the local GP and medical personnel and the friends of the hospital and action committee representatives.
“This is not just about the welfare of the existing 28 patients, its about providing care for elderly patients for years to come.”
Senator Whelan said it was incumbent on the HSE to stop their course of action. He described it as a “bloody-minded attempt to blindside the court and the community.”
He said he was bringing the letter to the attention of the Minister first hand, yesterday (Tuesday).
Gary O’Keeffe, PRO for the Abbeyleix and District Action Committee said they had been asked by the residents to represent and assist them in talks with the HSE.
He said no consultation would take place until the HSE sat down and talked with the committee.
Brian Maher, chairperson, thanked the people of Laois for the support they have shown to their campaign to date.
“We maybe asking for their support int he early part of the New Year, but we are hugely appreciative of the support from people,” he said.