HSE official proposed St Christopher’s cut

St Christophers Services in Longford.
St Christopher’s CEO Pat O’Toole has revealed he was approached by a high ranking HSE official to consider reducing day services at the Longford-based provider.

St Christopher’s CEO Pat O’Toole has revealed he was approached by a high ranking HSE official to consider reducing day services at the Longford-based provider.

The approach was made at a recent Regional Health Forum meeting held in Naas two weeks ago.

It was a suggestion the Longford provider’s chief executive and Fianna Fáil county councillor rejected out of hand.

Cllr O’Toole revealed the surprise request as local politicians debated St Christopher’s ongoing financial crisis at a special meeting of Longford County Council on Monday evening.

“After that meeting, a senior HSE manager spoke to me and asked would we not consider reducing day services from five days to four days,” he said.

Cllr O’Toole told a stunned chamber the appeal was swiftly rebuffed.

“That would have meant a 20 per cent reduction in services,” he remarked.

“I haven’t heard the HSE reducing their services by 20 per cent.”

Cllr O’Toole also revealed attempts to compare the centre’s two residential centres in Longford and Ballymahon with neighbouring facilities in Westmeath on a cost by cost basis had also proved futile.

There were just 10 service users compared to the 14 currently housed by St Christopher’s, he claimed, while two residents had no intellectual disability at all.

It was a disclosure which led to raised voices on both sides of the council chamber.

“It’s a damning indictment of this government,” said Cathaoirleach Cllr Mark Casey.

Others, led by Cllrs Mae Sexton and Martin Mulleady, renewed their calls for Fine Gael representatives to consider resigning their seats.

Not that Cllr Peggy Nolan was taking on board those recommendations as she claimed the controversy surrounding St Christopher’s had taken on a whole new meaning.

“All I hear is resign, resign, resign,” she snapped. “For the past 15 years, I have considered myself to be a good full-forward for St Christopher’s and Longford. Politics never came into into it for me because this is a moral issue.”

The meeting also heard impassioned speeches from Longford-Westmeath’s four constituency TDs, all of whom spoke glowingly about the level of service St Christopher’s provides.

But with no definitive outcome or breakthrough having arrived, it’s now expected much of the focus will centre on the publication of an independent review next Monday.

As revealed by this newspaper last week, management enlisted the services of Kilkenny-based accountant Joe Wolfe in recent weeks.

The outcome of that consultancy report on its two residential centres, Marley House and Marion Avenue in Longford and Ballymahon respecively, are expected to be made known at next Wednesday’s monthly council meeting.