The HSE’s decision to keep Abbeyleix Community Nursing Unit open has been hailed as “a victory for common sense” by local campaigners.
Last Friday July 31, an announcement was made by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan that the HSE will keep Abbeyleix open as “a short stay facility” for respite, transitional care and community services for the area.
“It will continue to service the local community and in particular will assist in the early discharge of patients from Portlaoise hospital for transitional care, convalescence or respite care,” he said.
The hospital will become “far busier” he added, with more staff required.
“The long term future is secure, regarding both care and jobs. Abbeyleix will cater for far more people than currently the case. It will be far busier, more active than has been the case for many years,” he told the Leinster Express.
No new longstay patients will be admitted, however he believes the remaining four patients will continue to live in the hospital.
“It is my understanding that there is no change to their status,” he said.
It is four years since the HSE first announced the closure of Abbeyleix and Shaen hospitals. After public outcry, street marches and a high court case taken by three Abbeyleix patients, the HSE agreed to defer their decision until consultations were held with families.
The decision was promised three years ago. Minister Flanagan says it “regrets it has taken so long”.
“I have been working hard to secure it’s future, It has been a lengthy process,” he said.
Abbeyleix Hospital Action committee gave the announcement “a guarded welcome”.
“Our first reaction is that this is a victory for common sense over stupidity. However it must be recognised that if it wasn’t for the entire community standing up against this bad decision, this wouldn’t have happened,” said Gary O’Keeffe.
The group will still push for some longstay accommodation.
“There has to be an element of longstay care, it doesn’t make any sense not to have it there,” he said, adding that the long delay was “disgraceful”.
No official statement has been made from the HSE.