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Taoiseach casts doubt over long-stay care at Castlebar hospital

Taoiseach casts doubt over future of Sacred Heart Hospital

Edwin McGreal

The future of long-stay care at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Castlebar is very much in doubt if comments by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny on Wednesday night last are anything to go by.
There are currently under 100 long-stay patients in the long-established elderly care centre in Castlebar while there have also been significant staff cutbacks and the subject has been a political hot potato in recent months. A majority of members of Castlebar Town Council passed a motion in April calling on Enda Kenny to give a firm commitment to make the Sacret Heart Home in the town ‘fully operational’ and that he ‘guarantees’ that it will not be downgraded or closed.
However the Taoiseach said that while ‘magnificent work’ was done in the Sacred Heart in the past, ‘times have changed’ and the Sacred Heart may no longer be suitable for the same level of long-stay care.
“The Fair Deal [nursing homes support scheme] has brought in a whole new era for patient care. Patients themselves decide that they don’t want to go into institutions like this anymore and they choose to go to private nursing homes where they may feel they have more appropriate facilities for their needs,” he said.
He also said that increased requirements for one, two and three-bedded wards meant that ‘the entire physical structure of the Sacred Heart Home is not conducive to this’.
“The fact of the matter is that, in my time as a public representative, there was always a very long waiting list for people to get into the Sacred Heart. There is now no waiting list. The patients have decided themselves where they want to go,” he said.
He said that he would await a report from the Minister for Health on the future of the Sacred Heart, which is due in ‘a couple of weeks’, before deciding ‘what the best option is for the future of the Sacred Heart Home and for the staff who work there’.
He did say that there was ‘no question’ of the daycare facility or the rehab facility and a number of other facilities at the Sacred Heart being ‘in any way diminished’.
Fianna Fáil are leading a ‘community rally’ in support of the retention of the hospital on Monday next, June 11 at 7.30pm.
Billed as a ‘non-political rally’, Conor Smyth, Chairman of the Castlebar Fianna Fáil Cumann said that he hoped the rally would send out a message of resistance to any closure at the hospital.
“I want to stress that this will not be a political rally in any way. There will be no party emblems, no party slogans, no party speeches. This is a rally for people of all political views, and none, to gather in solidarity to stop the closure of the Sacred Heart Hospital,” he said.

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