Uncertainty continues around State funding for Marymount hospice

Ireland’s oldest and largest hospice has launched a seven-year strategic plan against the backdrop of ongoing uncertainty over the level of its State funding.

Marymount University Hospital and Hospice in Cork, which serves a population of more than 500,000 people and which depends on the State for nearly 60% of its income, described their 2019-2025 strategic plan launched last night as an “ambitious but cost-effective plan” to deliver excellence in caring for the elderly and in providing specialist palliative care.

Kieran Barry, chairman of the board of directors, said the economic case for investment in services for older people and for specialist hospice care is well established and the strategy launched last night has been formulated to address gaps in services.

Marymount chief executive officer, Sarah McCloskey said new evidence shows that palliative care is not only clinically effective and prolongs life, but is equally cost-saving: “In the UK, they have estimated that approximately 20% of acute hospital bed days are taken up by end-of-life care."

Ms McCloskey added: “We know we can deliver more services, we know that it is cost effective for us to do more and we are acutely aware of the increasing demand for our services.”

But the hospice confirmed that engagement with the HSE over the level of State funding is ongoing.

It emerged last March that the hospice board had written to Health Minister Simon Harris the previous November to say it was operating at a “significant loss” and that without additional funding support, it would not be able to maintain its current level of service due to financial pressures caused by pay restoration and “significantly inadequate resources”.

Marymount, a section 39 agency, is facing pay restoration costs of almost €1.3m by 2021.

Despite Mr Barry asking that their request for additional funding “be addressed urgently” the hospice said last night that “those matters are ongoing”.

The hospice received a once-off payment of €1m in 2015, and later got another €1m in staged payments if it hit certain targets.

Some €2m will also be set aside as part of a phased sustainability plan, to be shared between Marymount and another facility.

Marymount’s strategic plan sets out several key ambitions, including ensuring the financial sustainability of its services.

The hospice, in Curraheen since 2011, has 44 specialist palliative care inpatient, a day care service and a current caseload in the community of 550 patients and families.

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