Of the 36 staff that have reportedly retired at St Joseph’s nursing home facility in Longford town during the past 18 months, none have been replaced. A local councillor has said that people are “ready to take to the streets” to maintain the facility in its entirety.
Cllr Peggy Nolan, who made the statement at a Longford County Council meeting, said the fears about the future of St Joseph’s continued to linger, despite assurances given by the HSE.
Cllr Nolan said there are beds that have been fully re-fitted that are not open. “There are people crying to get in to St Joseph’s. When the beds are vacated, they’re not being filled. They’re not taking in anyone new in St. Joseph’s as we speak,” she said, about the only nursing home facility in the county that is HSE-run.
In response to a query from the Leader, the HSE said, “There are no plans to downgrade St Joseph’s Care Centre for the Elderly. In fact there has been considerable upgrading works carried out in 2010 and hopefully this trend will continue in 2011 in order to support the Centre to comply with HIQA regulations.”
Cllr Paddy Belton, one of three members of the HSE forum (along with Gerry Brady and PJ Reilly), told the council that they have raised it on a number of occasions. He said the issue was that there is an embargo on the recruitment of staff.
“The Fair Deal system is being used now and they say that private nursing homes are adequate to deal with patients. The last report we got from them is that St Joseph’s is not going to be closed,” said Cllr Belton.
“The staff that are leaving are not going to be replaced. It’s the same problem here in this establishment (council). They say that under Fair Deal anyone that wants to go to St Joseph’s can now go to a nursing home in Ballymahon, or Longford or the Manor, or any of the private nursing homes. But they say they’re not downgrading St Joseph’s,” he added.
Cllr Nolan said she attended a meeting at St Joseph’s with Joe Ruane (Local Health Manager, Longford-Westmeath), who told her that no commitment could be given with regards the retention of services at St Joseph’s.
Speaking to the Leader this week, Fine Gael Deputy James Bannon said that if elected, he would guarantee the future of St Joseph’s Care Centre.
“I am totally committed to St Joseph’s and if I am elected, I will ensure the services there are maintained and enhanced,” he said, adding that the rumours about the facility’s future were ‘extremely upsetting and demoralising for staff and patients’.
Fianna Fail TD Peter Kelly said he too was concerned about speculation surrounding the future of St Joseph’s.
“I have been very concerned to hear the rumours that services to St. Joseph’s Hospital are to be reduced or even that the hospital is to be closed completely,” he told the Leader. “The services provided by St. Joseph’s and the incredibly dedicated staff there are vital for the local community in Longford.” Deputy Kelly pledged his support for the facility and stated that he would be fighting to ensure that beds and jobs are maintained.
Cllr Mae Sexton, who is running in the forthcoming election for Labour, raised the matter last week, saying that she will work with her party to ensure the services are retained at the facility.