the first attempts to hold consultation talks with the HSE on the proposed closure of Abbeyleix Hospital have had to be forced by the hospital’s action committee.
Gary O’Keeffe, spokesperson of the committee that is representing the patients and their families, said the committee had made contact with a senior HSE official on Tuesday morning and were hoping to have a date for pre-consultation talks.
“We’re hoping that they will get back to us today (Tuesday), but we’re not holding our breath. We sent a registered letter to the HSE Christmas week, and we have received no correspondence back. We spoke with a senior offical in the HSE this morning (Tuesday) and they said they would take it to the next level,” he said.
Mr O’Keeffe said the committee wants to discuss the terms of consultations. He said they wanted to be there with the families and patients when the talks were taking place.
However, the HSE said they are working on the format of the consultation process and it will inform the residents and their families of the process when it is formalised and ready to commence.
But there was a small glimmer of hope for the hospital this week when the Minister for Health said where community nursing homes were not financially viable and local people wished to retain them or take them over, he would be happy to look at how they could remain in operation.
This was welcomed by the Abbeyleix and District Hospital Action Committee which is understood to have put such a plan to the Minister.
Mr O’Keeffe said he was heartened to see Minister James Reilly, take on board what they had been saying.
“This is what we have been saying all along, we need to look at alternative configurations to keep Abbeyleix open.”
It was also revealed before Christmas, that in its draft service plan for next year, the HSE had been looking at closing between 555 and 900 community nursing home beds. This could involve up to ten homes closing. It is believed that units with fewer than 50 beds, are particularly vulnerable.
But the Action Committee spokesperson said they were confident that Abbeyleix would not be one of these.
“We know it’s going to take a huge battle to make everyone see why Abbeyleix should be kept open, but we are confident that it won’t be one of those ten.”
He said they would continue to urgently seek a meeting with the HSE and get the Minister to deliver on his promise to visit Abbeyleix.
The Department of Health declined to say if the Minister would visit Abbeyleix this month. He has committed to visiting Abbeyleix early last month.
Meanwhile, the Midlands Regional Hospital, Portlaoise had the highest number of patients on trollies in the Midlands on Tuesday morning. As many as 14 people were waiting on beds in Portlaoise, compared with just seven in Tullamore.