A SENIOR health manager apologised yesterday for delays which have left a new €16 million community nursing unit lying idle for over a year.
Pat Healy, the regional director of operations for the Health Service Executive (HSE) South, said the buck stops with him when it comes to responsibility for the controversial delay affecting the new 68-bed Dingle Community Nursing Unit in Co Kerry.
But he told a meeting of HSE South Regional Health Forum that the HSE is now formally engaged with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to resolve the registration issues. But fresh concerns have emerged that if the building must comply with new environmental standards, structural alterations will be required.
The first patient transfers from the old St Elizabeth’s Hospital in Dingle to the new facility, which was built over 18-months ago, were due to take place in July.
The HSE applied for registration but the opening was postponed after it emerged HIQA wasn’t satisfied new standards of care, introduced last year were not met. It is understood the issues centre on room size and en-suite facilities.
Cllr Marie Moloney told the HSE managers yesterday they should be ashamed of the “shambles”. Cllr Brendan Cahill said the morale of hospital staff is at an all time low. Mr Healy said the delay was due to a combination of factors, including staffing issues, which have been resolved, and funding, which delayed the commissioning of the building.
But he explained the new building was designed and built in 2008 before HIQA introduced its new standards in 2009. He said it was the HSE’s understanding that the new facility would be treated under the old rules, and that HIQA had given verbal assurances at a regional level the building would be registered.
But when HIQA considered the HSE’s registration request at a national level, its officials took the view that the new rules should apply.
“We are working with HIQA, and the Department of Health to bring this to appropriate and speedy resolution,” Mr Healy said.
The HSE has in the meantime requested a ‘transfer of service’ of the 46 patients from the old hospital to the new unit amid concerns about the conditions in the old building.
Mr Healy said he believes any outstanding registration issues with the new unit can be resolved with the patients on site. “This would ensure that the current patients be placed in a position of safety in a new building which has fire certification and which can deal with infection control issues, due to the availability of a significant number of single rooms and isolation rooms,” Mr Healy said.
Crucial meetings are due to take place next week and while Mr Healy said he is confident the issues can be resolved, he could not give an exact opening date for the facility.
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