The number of beds in Belmullet District Hospital will be cut by a quarter, according to a local senator who is calling on Minister Michael Ring to keep his word that the hospital will not be downgraded.
Sinn Féin councillor Rose Conway-Walsh claimed that representatives of the hospital staff were told by HSE on Friday that the number of beds in the Belmullet District Hospital will be cut from 20 to 15 beds.
Concerns for the future of the hospital emerged at the end of May when the HSE confirmed that agency staff working will no longer be retained. In light of these concerns, Minister for State for the Department of Health Jim Daly stated that there would be no downgrade on his watch and is due to visit Belmullet District Hospital on July 2 to assess the situation and talk with staff.
Minister Michael Ring has stated that no beds will be cut if they are being used and if the demand is there, ‘the beds will be kept open’.
However, Senator Conway-Walsh said the latest revelations that the beds will be cut to 15 were ‘bitterly disappointing’.
“The HSE and the staff reps met and they were clearly told that the hospital will be cut to 15 beds. Minister Ring said there will not be any downgrades, so he needs to be clear who is telling the truth here. If a quarter of the beds are to be closed the only one way to describe that as a major downgrade,” she said.
There are currently 17 patients in the district hospital in Belmullet and Senator Conway-Walsh said that she has not heard when the perceived bed closures will take place.
She blamed the problem with the lack of patients taking up beds in the hospital was down to the referral system where GPs are not allowed to refer patients to the hospital.
“You have to stay a night in Mayo University Hospital before you can be referred. When GPs are not allowed to refer and you can’t allow referrals from A&E then of course you are going to have empty beds,” she said.
It was reported last week that the HSE are targeting home-help hours for cuts, and Senator Conway-Walsh said this will result in further overcrowding in hospitals because patients won’t be sent home without home help.