‘Money before patients’

For the second time in less than twelve months, the county’s politicians have once again been called on to fight to retain vital health services in Laois.

For the second time in less than twelve months, the county’s politicians have once again been called on to fight to retain vital health services in Laois.

The three TDs and senators challenged the close of the hospital on financial grounds.

Speaking at Monday night’s public meeting in Abbeyleix, Fine Gael TD, Charlie Flanagan said he was taken aback last week, when he was told in a phone call of the closure. He was unsure if the decision could be changed.

“I’m not sure if this decision can be reversed. I have spoken to the HSE about the matter and they tell me that it isn’t going to be reversed,” he said.

He said it was an economic decision, because of the state of the finances of the country.

“The HSE in Laois/Offaly division are €6million overdrawn as we speak, that figure will become €7m by the end of the year,” he said.

Sinn Fein TD Brian Stanley said the decision came on the back of a steady downgrade.

“Abbeyleix has been wound down over the last number of years and that’s why the cost is so much per bed. I know the staff are prepared to cut costs and make huge sacrifices. The facility is the jewel in the crown of the public nursing home system in county Laois and beyond. It’s pristine, huge renovations have taken place there,” he said.

Deputy Stanley said there would be greater medical costs because patients would not be looked after as well in some private nursing homes.

Fianna Fail’s Sean Fleming said the HSE would now have to pay an additional €1.5m, on top of the existing payroll bill of €2.6m, to private nursing homes.

He pointed out the extra sercurity and maintenance costs to look after the building.

He said there had been other closures of nursing homes on health and safety grounds, but this was the first in Ireland to close on financial grounds.

“There is history being made in Abbeyleix at the moment, wrong history and we need that reversed, Abbeyleix has to take a stand for Abbeyleix and for the elderly people of Ireland, so they’re not shoved out on money grounds.

“The HSE have said this this is a financial decision. We have seen a new departure for the Department of Health. Money now comes before patients,” he said.

Labour Party Senator John Whelan said he did not trust the HSE management.

“It’s a poor decision and on that basis we can challenge it and have it overturned. They are faceless management officials, who sat around a table. The decision wasn’t made on clincical or healthcare grounds. It was simply made on a book balancing exercise.

“They’re €7million overrun and they decided to go for a soft target and pick on 70, 80 and 90 year olds in Abbeyleix to help them balance their books,” he said.

He said the HSE officials had failed to assure him this was the end of the matter.