Places occupied by patients of Abbeyleix hospital who have passed away ar not being used to accomodate, ng to Gary O’Keeffe, spokesperson of the action committee.
It is two months since a promised deadline for a Ministerial decision on the future of Abbeyleix and Shaen hospitals. With no sign of an announcement forthcoming, the Abbeyleix Hoospital committee is to meet this Thursday to consider further action. This action could include a co-ordinated nationwide march.
Local political representatives have been invited. Mr O’Keeffe is unhappy with the lack of response from the Government and the HSE.
“We are looking for answers and they are not coming. We are one year on from when the HSE first announced their decision to close Abbeyleix and Shaen. We have put in a massive community effort, and people are outraged at how they are being ignored,” Mr O’Keeffe said.
He claimed similar hospital action groups in Drogheda, Galway, Cork and Athy could be mustered to hold a simultaneous protest.
“This is heating up, there are a lot of dedicated, capable organised people in other action groups. We are pushing the Minister to get off his seat and make the right decision, based on sound logic. These are the most vulnerable people in our society,” he said.
A public outcry followed the HSE’s decision to close the two Laois CNUs last year, which between them housed 54 elderly patients.
After public marches, the HSE agreed to defer their decision until consultations were held with families of patients and concerned individuals, ending last July. In total, 53 meetings were held with residents and their families and 1,939 petitions in favour of keeping Abbeyleix open were handed in.
A decision was to be announced by Minister for Health Dr James Reilly last September, following a HSE recommendation.
Abbeyleix Hospital Action Committee were among those who submitted an alternative plan to keep the hospital open, but say they have heard no feedback since.
“We have gone through the consultation process and were told that there would be strict deadlines as to how it would be handled and when it would be completed. None of these deadlines were kept, except by us.
“The hospital action committee and the residents and relatives of the hospital were told that the decision would not be delayed. However despite numerous requests, and representations to TD Charlie Flanagan, absolutely no contact has been made.
“The Hospital action committee and all concerned are now extremely annoyed at this lack of fair play from the HSE,” he said.
He says the HSE seem to be deliberately waiting as beds slowly empty so they can close the units.
“We can confirm that some residents have passed away, and are not being replaced and are again saying that there seems to be a deliberate intention of the HSE management to close the unit by stealth – an action the action committee is determined to actively oppose in everyway possible,” he said.
There are now just 20 patients living in Abbeyleix CNU, and seven respite patients availing of facilities there.