Fine Gael members of Castlebar Town Council were accused of listening to the ‘gombeen’ management of the HSE regarding what was happening with Sacred Heart Hospital instead of the people affected by the cut in beds.
There were fractious exchanges at last week’s special meeting of Castlebar Town Council to discuss the future of the Sacred Heart Hospital with Fine Gael councillors claiming they received assurances from HSE management that the hospital would not close and it had a future.
However, the opposition councillors claimed that they were informed by families who were told by consultants in Mayo General Hospital that there were no beds available in the Sacred Heart Hospital.
Following the meeting it later emerged that the HSE had suspended all admissions to the Sacred Heart Hospital and they are seeking registration from HIQA for a 77 long stay bed facility and that at present there are 84 long stay patients in the hospital.
At the special meeting, Cllr Noreen Heston explained that she and the other Fine Gael councillors met with the HSE West management and she wanted to allays any fears residents, family and staff may have regarding its future. She explained that an application from the hospital for development of facilities from a €28 million national fund has been made and the decision was imminent and there were no plans to close it.
Cllr Heston said she was advised by HSE management that there was no waiting list for long term stay care which led to Independent councillor Michael Kilcoyne to inject that she got ‘wrong advice’.
Cllr Heston also explained that people were choosing private care over public nursing care with only 20 per cent of people who qualify from the fair deal scheme choosing to go into public care. However, this was disputed by Cllr Kilcoyne who claimed people were choosing private care over the Sacred Heart because they were being told there was no room available.
Fine Gael councillor Brendan Heneghan told the meeting that there was a lot of hysteria regarding the future of the Sacred Heart but was assured it has a future.
“There has been a lot of hysteria recently about it [Sacred Heart Hospital] which is understandable. There is a huge emotional attachment to it. I know the staff are worried about jobs but their jobs are safe and the long term future of the hospital is safe. All I can say is the future is safe and an extra dimension will be added,” he said.
However, Cllr Kilcoyne was sceptical of what the Fine Gael councillors were saying and reiterated that he has been told by families that no beds are available and he claimed he would produce the families to prove it.
“Families have been told by consultants that there were no beds available in the Sacred Heart Hospital and that is what I have been told. The decision has been made that there will be no long term care in the Sacred Heart, short-term, yes, rehab, yes, but no long term care,” he said while adding that the Fine Gael politicians were speaking to ‘gombeen’ officials who would ‘not know their arse from their elbow’.
Cllr Kilcoyne and Cllr Frank Durcan were both critical of An Taoiseach Enda Kenny for not using his influence to ensure the facilities in the Sacred Heart are secured. In a letter to the Town Council, Deputy Kenny said that ‘there are major changes’ in the way health services were being delivered and that the Sacred Heart building ‘does not accord with standards laid down for accommodation for the future’.
Cllr Kilcoyne said the people of Mayo had been promised that there would be ‘heaven on earth’ if they got a Mayo Taoiseach but claimed he was implementing Fianna Fáil policy and pushing people into private care.
Cllr Durcan said he had failed the people ‘miserably’ and proposed that the Taoiseach appear before the public in Castlebar and discuss the future of the Sacred Heart. He was seconded by Cllr Blackie Gavin and there was no counter proposal.
At the end of the meeting there were sharp exchanges between Cllr Ger Deere and Cllr Durcan with Cllr Deere accusing him of using the Sacred Heart situation to continue his vendetta against Deputy Kenny. Cllr Durcan did hit back claiming Cllr Deere was getting paid by the ‘establishment’ to ‘defend the indefendsible’.
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