CONCERN is mounting that the HSE is planning to close even more nursing home beds in a west Cork hospital.
Elderly patients, along with their relatives and nursing staff, are reportedly worried about HSE plans for Mount Carmel in Clonakilty.
And Cork County councillor John O’Sullivan (FG), who sits on the HSE South Forum, said elected representatives are being left in the dark.
He said yesterday: “we fear for the future of the hospital.”
Similar fears have been expressed across the country with people working in the public nursing home sector increasingly believing that the HSE is seeking to quietly move away from the provision of public nursing home beds to instead, purchasing beds from the private sector.
The HSE has denied there is any kind of policy shift but private nursing home fees can vary from €640 to €1,335 per week.
In contrast, the average cost of a public nursing home is €1,200 a week due to higher staff costs.
Last week, eight elderly residents at Clonakilty Community Hospital were told they were leaving their rooms as eight long-stay beds were to be shut. The HSE was adamant the Mount Carmel bed closures are temporary but local councillors are sceptical.
Cllr John O’Sullivan says the eight beds removed from usage at Block 1 were “dismantled and removed” from the ward. Sixteen beds remain at the Block 1.
“That doesn’t seem like a temporary closure to me. And this follows the reduction of another ward in Block 2 from an eight bed to a five-bed ward.
“There is great uncertainty out there as nobody is talking about why this happening.
“We fear for the future of the hospital. We are all aware that it is cheaper for the HSE to buy beds privately rather than pay for them themselves,” Courtmacsherry-based Cllr O’Sullivan said.
“I sit on the HSE South Forum but HSE management do not tell us anything about how they are running services on a day-to-day basis. We are as much in the dark as anyone else.”
It is feared locally the ward closure will have wider ramifications with relatives concerned that respite and convalescent beds may be lost, as some of the long-stay patients transferred last week have been moved into respite beds.
The HSE South says the eight Clonakilty beds were shut by HSE South management due to staffing problems.
West Cork local health office general manager Teresa O’Donovan said the hospital had little option, as due to the government embargo on hiring staff, they could not recruit replacement staff to cover staff leave.
Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive Tadhg Daly said if the HSE does want to move patients into the private nursing home sector, they would appreciate if the HSE “came out and said it”.
“We have not been told about change in policy but it has been independently verified that the cost of a private bed is half that of maintaining a public bed.
“If this is an avenue that they want to pursue, we would like if they sat down with us and talked to us about it first,” he said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved