Cllr Willie Nolan (FF) has called on the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly to put pressure on HSE West to collect the €61 million it is owed and use it to save beds at St Joseph’s District Hospital.
Three weeks ago it was announced that 12 of the 62 beds at St Joseph’s District Hospital, Ballina, will close at the hospital by the end of January when the situation will be reviewed again. Just days ago it was confirmed that respite facilities for mental health patients in Ballina and Castlebar will also be adversely affected.
The HSE cuts to services for older people and mental health patients been met with anger – an anger compounded by the fact that over €61 million is owed to the HSE West by private health insurance companies.
Hospital bed closures
At last week’s monthly meeting of Ballina Town Council Cllr Nolan said, “The older people at St Joseph’s Hospital are being affected by this while there is €61 million outstanding. The Minister for Health has to put it to HSE West and try and get the €61 million that would prevent the closure of beds.”
Party colleague Cllr Johnny O’Malley added: “There are 12 patients at the hospital that won’t now be accommodated. Where are they supposed to go now if the ultimate aim is to free up clinical beds?”
Councillor Frances McAndrew said that the closure of beds in Ballina and other district hospitals would be very serious and would have repercussions on the day-to-day services available at Mayo General Hospital.
Speaking to The Mayo News, Matt Farrell, Chairman, Ballina Trades Council, said the closures will have be highly detrimental in several ways. He said they would result in an increased workload for staff; the loss of convalescence and post surgery recovery services; and the loss of excellent local services, which he believes will ultimately have a negative impact on patient confidence.
Mr Farrell added: “We now call on our local government TDs to highlight our grave concerns to the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly and to work for a swift return and re-opening of these 12 beds at Ballina District hospital. We would also seek clarification on the alarming possibility of further cuts in hospital beds [which could have a] direct impact on St Augustine’s Nursing Home, Ballina.”
Psychiatric units cut
Another body-blow for Ballina District Hospital was delivered last week when it was announced that respite facilities in the psychiatric unit based at the hospital are to close early in the new year.
Ballina Psychiatric Unit based at the district hospital, which provides outreach services and respite facilities for 60 clients in the regions, has been earmarked for closure in February under HSE cost-cutting plans. Teach Aisling, a purpose-built ten-bed standalone unit in Castlebar for male and female residents with challenging behaviour is also due to close.
Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary described the impending closure of two psychiatric units in the county as ‘shocking and distressing’ for service users and their families. He stated that mental-health service users in Mayo are being abandoned by the HSE and the Government.
Deputy Calleary said he believed the decision will have severe and far reaching repercussions for the provision of mental health services in Mayo.
He continued, “The Ballina Psychiatric Unit, with 10 nurses attached, is providing a lifeline to 60 service users presently in terms of day-care, outreach and respite or ‘crisis’ services, while Teach Aisling is a 10 bed facility which was purpose build and opened just 9 years ago.”
The HSE is proposing to move both services to St. Teresa’s in Castlebar, however Deputy Calleary said that this will cause space problems.