A leading figure in the Health Service Executive has reiterated the commitment of the HSE to St Joseph’s and admitted his frustration at continuing rumours relating to the Dublin Road facility.
Speaking at last week’s County Council meeting, Area Manager for the Midlands, Joe Ruane, said there was absolutely no threat to St Joseph’s. “The HSE is fully committed to St Joseph’s Community Nursing Unit. One of the common themes since I started my role five years ago is that stories are constantly appearing in relation to the future of St Joseph’s.
“I want to say categorically that at no stage in the last five years has there ever been a discussion about closing St Joseph’s, not once.”
Mr Ruane added these constant threats were demoralising for staff. “People ask me why don’t I go on [radio] and address every single rumour relating to St Joseph’s – because I would do nothing else. It’s difficult for staff and the community to hear day-in, day-out that the service is under threat; there is no threat.”
The hour-long discussion on health services in Longford was also attended by the hospital manager of Mullingar, Trevor O’Callaghan and the HSE Community Services Manager, Grainne Nic Gabhann.
Mr Ruane also revealed that due to the expected exodus of staff from the public service in February 2012, and the inability to foretell who was set to retire,there was a significant risk service users could be left in beds without the proper levels of staff to care for them.
As a result the decision was made to cease admissions to all community nursing homes in the area last August – one of the moves that sparked fears regarding the future of St. Joseph’s as numbers subsequently dropped. On hearing this, Cllr Peggy Nolan said people in Longford, including herself, would have been spared considerable stress had this been made public at the time.
Admissions re-opened in February. Currently, there are 68 beds in St Joseph’s, 62 of which are occupied with an extra person set to be admitted this week. Mr Ruane said there were no waiting list to access St Joseph’s.
Mr Ruane also threw his support behind providing a number of step-up or step-down beds for service users in St Josephs’s after Minister for Health James Reilly requested a business plan on the matter during his visit to the facility last Monday week.
It is hoped four beds could be provided for non-acute medical care, potentially freeing up beds in the busier Midlands Regional Hospital Mullingar.
Mr Ruane also said he did not envisage any emergency services of any kind in Longford, while committing to the future of the current GP-led operation, which he praised as an excellent service.
He said “serious challenges remain within the health service, and our task is to realign, reorganise, reconfigure. We need to change the service to a service more responsible to current needs.”