Major concerns over the future of St Joseph’s Care Centre in Longford town have arisen this week after local members of the Dublin Mid/Leinster Health Forum were told by the Health Service Executive (HSE) that no decision had been taken on funding for service provision there.
The facility on the Dublin Road is currently under refurbishment in an effort to bring it into line with Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) standards and when completed, bed capacity will be reduced down from 174 beds to just 110.
Cllr PJ Reilly (FF) who is a member of the health forum alongside Cllr Paddy Belton (FG) and Gerry Brady (FG) told the Leader on Monday that while refurbishment at the facility had commenced, it had emerged that the cost to the HSE to provide care for one public patient at St Joseph’s Care Centre was approximately P300 more per week than the cost of providing the same service to a patient facilitated by private health care.
“It is more costly for the HSE to keep patients at St Josephs than to put them into to private health care,” said Cllr Reilly. “And yes, while the refurbishment works are being carried out at the hospital to ensure HIQA safety standards, it will have a decreased patient capacity of 110 when the works are completed. The six bed wards at the hospital will be removed altogether and reduced to four bed wards.”
Cllr Reilly went on to say that while the service provided at St Jospehs was “excellent”, the current economic climate dictated the provision of health care and the facility would therefore “have to become more cost effective” to survive. Fine Gael Cllr Peggy Nolan said that confirmation was now required from the HSE as to “when the downgrading of St Joseph’s would stop”.
“The full compliment of beds there was 174 two years ago and now it’s at 70,” she said. “There is no confirmation of when this is going to stop and as far as I am concerned there is a major threat to our public beds at St Josephs. People are queuing up to get into it because the service provided there is of such a high standard and the HSE cannot give a commitment to keeping the services there into the future. Will staff that leave be replaced? We need answers about what exactly the HSE’s plans are for St Josephs.”
Meanwhile, members of the health forum were told at a recent meeting that there were no plans currently to reconfigure services at the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar.
“My feeling at this moment is that Mullingar is not one of the 10 hospitals listed that will be downgraded,” explained Cllr Reilly. However he also pointed out that he was unaware of what the future held for the hospital either. “We need to keep our eyes open because there is a centre of excellence in Tullamore – just thirty or forty miles from Mullingar – and it is this very centre of excellence that could pose a huge threat to the future of the Midland Regional Hospital, Mullingar.”