sT VINCENT’S Hospital in Mountmellick is safe Dep Charles Flanagan TD pledged to the town’s councillors at a behind closed doors meeting last week.
He told cllrs that he is also pushing for 16 unoccupied beds at the community care unit in Mountmellick to reopen, increasing capacity to 138 patients.
He was responding to grave concerns expressed by the cllrs in recent months for the future of the hospital, following the controversy over Shaen and Abbeyleix.
They had requested clarification from the minister, a native of the town.
“The future of Mountmellick hospital is assured by both the HSE and the Minister for Health James Reilly.
“I have talked to the minister about it on a number of occasions over the past few months. It is one of the leading units in the country,” he said.
Whatever happens to the threatened hospitals at Shaen and Abbeyleix, he said St Vincent’s would continue to play a key role in the provision of elderly care in the region, praising the high level of care and attention that has continued through generations of staff.
“This level of care is a fitting tribute to the Matron, Louise Burke, and all of her staff despite the tight budgetary constraints that are placed on these hospitals,” he said.
If the smaller hospitals do close, patients could be transferred to Mountmellick, according to the Minister.
“It is an option, but I am anxious to ensure service continues in Abbeyleix, and the viability of Shaen, but Mountmellick remains the leading centre,” Dep Flanagan said.
A large ward remains closed at the hospital, but reopening St Joseph’s Ward depends on several factors, he said.
“It is partly because of the moritorium on staff, and on budgets, but the unit needs refurbishment, it is too big, it needs to be reduced to a number of rooms.
“I can’t say the budget is secured for that,” he said, adding that with retirements taking place, budgeting and staffing problems will become clearer in the coming weeks.
“We have to be conscious that there is a very tight budget, but it’s absolutely essential that the needs of the elderly are met,” he said.
He said that there are now 17,000 people in Laois and Offaly aged over 65, but only 827 public and private nursing home beds, of which less than half are public.
St Vincent’s has 175 staff, caring for 122 patients.
There are 100 beds for elderly patients, eight in the dementia unit, six for young chronically sick patients and eight respite beds, all fully occupied.
The two bed hospice unit is separate to these. There are no regulatory or HIQA problems with the hospital.
Mountmellick Town Council’s Chairman Cllr Stephen Lynch welcomed s.
“It was a good meeting. I was delighted to hear that the hospital is not in danger.
“Nothing is 100 per cent, but it’s safe at the moment, and that’s great news,” he said.