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One in eight nursing beds cut

One in eight nursing beds cut

Fears for long-term future of community nursing units in Mayo

Anton McNulty

Fifty-nine elderly-care beds in community nursing units around Mayo are to close – almost 15 per cent of the county’s total supply. The move will result in the closure of several institutions, according to an Independent Mayo councillor.
A confidential HSE document shown to Castlebar-based councillor Michael Kilcoyne revealed that 59 elderly care beds were to be closed in six nursing units in Mayo. These include 20 in the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar, nine in the MacBride Nursing Home in Castlebar, six in the newly-extended Swinford District Hospital, six in St Augustine’s Home in Ballina, nine in the Dalton Home in Claremorris and 19 in Belmullet District Hospital.
The HSE confirmed the closure of the beds would take place on a phased basis. Cllr Kilcoyne said the move was an attack on the most vulnerable in society and lashed out at Enda Kenny and Fine Gael TDs for allowing it to happen.
“At the moment there are 409 nursing care beds in Mayo, and these will be reduced by 59 which is disgraceful. We have a Mayo Taoiseach and we are closing beds for the most vulnerable in society. A few weeks ago Enda Kenny opened a state-of-the-art centre in Swinford, now five or six weeks later, they are closing six beds in the hospital there. We were told things would be different when the people kicked out Fianna Fáil and put in Fine Gael but it is the same if not worse,” he said.

Staffing issue
A statement released by the explained that the difficulty in replacing staff has ‘an inevitable impact on the number of beds that can be maintained safely’.
“Various issues impact on the number of beds that can safely be provided in these units, including HIQA standards in relation to the physical environment and space and the staffing levels required. The difficulty in replacing staff who retire or resign has an inevitable impact on the number of beds that can be maintained safely,” the statement read.

Ring in the dark

Fine Gael TD, Minister Michael Ring said he was not aware of these closures when notified by The Mayo News but said the HSE were wrong to use HIQA reports to close the beds. He said savings had to be made but closing beds was not the way to do it and that he would make representations to Minister for Health, James Reilly.
“I am very disappointed to hear of the closure of 59 beds and to find out about it through the media. I will fight these closures every step of the way and will be bringing this up with Minister James Reilly. They are using the HIQA reports and the embargo to cut costs but these are easy targets and it is not the way to go. This is short term gain for long term pain,” he said.
Minister Ring said the embargo on the recruitment of staff needed to be looked at in relation to health but denied that Fine Gael were going against their election promises by making these cuts.

‘Absolute disaster’

The closure of 19 beds in Belmullet District Hospital will be an ‘absolute disaster’ for the community in Erris according to local councillor Rose Conway-Walsh. There are currently 38 beds in the hospital and Cllr Conway-Walsh said the closure of half the beds will have a serious impact on the whole area and called on the government TDs to resist these closures.
“It is an absolute disaster from a community point of view because Erris has a high percentage of elderly people and is so far away from Castlebar. If the beds are closed, it will automatically put pressure on hospital beds in Mayo General and Galway Hospitals and end up costing the state more. It is a crazy situation to be in and as a councillor I will be resisting these closures.
“We had a campaign against the cutback of services in Belmullet Hospital and I can’t believe this is happening after all the promises we received … I can’t believe they are doing this to the people of Erris.”