Elderly care units get €80m green light

EIGHT new mini hospitals costing €80 million are to be built in Cork and Kerry in the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) to be sanctioned by the Department of Health.

Construction will start in 2005 and the so-called Community Nursing Units (CNUs) will cater for up to 400 elderly patients.

Southern Health Board chairman Batt O’Keeffe said each of the eight units will cost 10m to develop and will cater for 50 patients.

Five of them will be built in Cork city and suburbs. The health board has purchased land for one at Farranlee Road and hopes to develop another at the former army barracks in Ballincollig. A third unit at St Finbarr’s Hospital, with the other two at the Orthopedic Hospital in Gurranabraher and St Stephen’s Hospital in Glanmire.

One serving the community in North Cork will be built in Mallow and West Cork’s needs are to be taken care of with a new development in Bantry. A community nursing unit will also be built in the grounds of Tralee General Hospital.

“The units will make a major impact on the number of elderly people looking for beds. We currently estimate there are 350 looking for beds in the city and suburbs and with more

private nursing homes coming on stream we hope to be in a good position to handle the needs of a growing aging population,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

The health board has just appointed a team of business advisors who are putting a plan together under EU procurement policy. This plan will be submitted to the Department of Health within the next two months.

“The health board will then be advertising for one developer to come in and do all the work under the Public Private Partnership scheme. It’s the first occasion in this country that the Department of Health has agreed to sanction such a scheme.

“We are obviously anxious to make these developments as cost-effective as possible to ensure the public gets value for money,” Mr O’Keeffe said.

The health board says the spread of the new geriatric units is designed to ensure that as many patients as possible are located near to their homes.

“The new Community Nursing Units will be built in locations so as to provide the older population with a greater chance of being accommodated close to their current homes, relatives and friends in line with their wishes,” a Southern Health Board spokesman said.

He added that the board had developed a business case for the delivery of the CNUs through the PPP. The requirement for the eight CNUs was developed through the

Aging With Confidence study, a strategy published by the Southern Health Board in 1999.

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