GP appeal on Abbeyleix hospital beds left empty

The HSE have been accused of closing Abbeyleix hospital “by stealth” because they are ignoring requests to fill empty beds there.

The HSE have been accused of closing Abbeyleix hospital “by stealth” because they are ignoring requests to fill empty beds there.

Dr John Madden, the Medical Officer to the hospital has pleaded for patients to be sent to the unit where staff are awaiting to care for them, while TD Sean Fleming says it makes no financial sense to close the hospital, as he has found out that 63 other public nursing homes in the country cost more to run.

Tomorrow night (Thursday) a meeting has been called to decide whether to hold another march over the hospital. Organisers say will have 20,000 people on the streets if the march is called

Gary O’Keeffe from the Abbeyleix Hospital Action Committee says they are “absolutely outraged” that a HSE decision on filling the beds, promised by March 9, has still not been made.

“We feel we are being, quite frankly, led up the garden path and that the HSE intention is to close Abbeyleix by stealth. There is zero tolerance for this kind of awkward, double speaking from the HSE,” he said.

The previous march of 5,000 will be quadrupled this time he says, judging by the support their 100 activists have received in Laois, from Borris-in-Ossory to Graiguecullen.

Dr John Madden, a local GP and the Medical Officer to Abbeyleix hospital, has written to HSE area manager Joe Ruane expressing his dismay that beds remain empty.

“We are now down to 26 longstay and three respite beds. We are now in a position to immediately take two patients from expensive secondary/tertiary care facilities at absolutely no cost to the HSE. These patients can be facilitated with current staffing levels.” says the doctor, explaining the immediate savings and boost in morale.

“In the context of your acknowledged primary care overspend why would we not use a golden opportunity to save money? In all our interests I earnestly request you to act now,” he says.

Sean Fleming TD has used his position on the Public Accounts Committee to find out the cost per patient for the 124 nursing homes in the country, which he says proves there is no financial basis to close Abbeyleix or Shaen.

The average cost per patient per week is €1,166. On this list Shane comes in at No 17 with a cost of €1,633. St Vincent’s Mountmellick comes in at No 39 at €1,294 and Abbeyleix is No 64 at €1,161.

“Clearly based on the HSE’s own figures there is no sense whatever in closing Abbeyleix hospital as there are 63 other nursing homes in the country with higher average weekly costs. It also makes no sense to suggest that there are financial reasons for closing Shaen as patients there have a higher dependency level and there are 16 other nursing homes throughout the country with higher costs,” Dep Fleming says.

“It is clear from the HSE that any assessment based on financial grounds to close these institutions does not now stack up. I hopes that this will bring an end to this unnecessary upset and saga which was initiated by the HSE based on false information on financial grounds and mis-representation of HIQA reports,” the TD said.

The HSE in reply to why beds have not been filled at Abbeyleix, said they are finalising a process to apply to all locations where closure is being considered.

“A lot of work is going into finalising this standardised national approach which, given the importance of the process, is essential to ensure that a comprehensive and robust template is available to guide staff in these cases. This will provide a framework for all stakeholders to contribute to the decision making process. These stakeholders include patients, relatives, staff, public representatives and any other interested parties,” a spokesperson from the HSE said yesterday.