Hospital unit set for partial reopening after protests

The HSE has announced the partial reopening of a Waterford hospital unit whose sudden closure sparked a protest march last May.

In what is seen as a phased return to a full complement of beds, the HSE has informed the Dungarvan Community Hospital Action Group that the hospital’s Sacred Heart Ward will see six long-stay and six rehabilitation beds reopened from September 11.

The unit closed last May with the loss of 19 beds, adding to an earlier loss of seven beds. Areas affected were physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and palliative care. Patients were assigned to other wards, along with 16 care staff.

The HSE attributed the closures to health and safety issues caused by staff shortages and insisted the losses would be temporary.

Locals feared an indefinite closure, similar to the hospital’s 24-bed St Enda’s ward which remains closed following refurbishment in 2016. The hospital currently has 107 beds operational.

The action group held talks with HSE representatives in June, during which it was reiterated that the unit would reopen pending the outcome of a recruitment drive. The HSE has declined to specify how many nurses have been hired but says the campaign is ongoing.

A second meeting between the HSE and the action group was scheduled for today, but has been deferred to September due to “unavailability on the HSE side”, said Eamonn Healy, public relations officer for the action group.

Stephanie Lynch, HSE general manager for social care and community healthcare in the South-East, said residents and their families will be consulted as regards their accommodation preferences “appropriate to their needs” within the hospital.

Paula French, director of nursing, will meet with patients and their advocates on August 29, during which issues relating to returning to the Sacred Heart unit will be discussed. While welcoming the partial reopening, the action group remains concerned that the situation “is not fully resolved”.

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