Health Minister Leo Varadkar is coming under pressure to ensure St Joseph’s Care Centre is included in a nationwide step -down facility roll-out.
Mr Varadkar’s party colleague Cllr Peggy Nolan reiterated a plea she made just last week over rising hospital overcrowding levels.
Cllr Nolan said throwing large sums of taxpayers’ money at the problem was not the solutionand she believes that health chiefs need to make best use of resources that are currently available to them.
“This is something I have been looking for for the last seven years,” she maintained, as she claimed two wards at St Joseph’s were presently lying idle.
“The property portfolio down there is quite extensive. All of the wards were refurbished but because they (HSE) couldn’t get the staff, they closed the wards.
“If those two wards were brought up to standard, that’s 20 beds that could be freed up in Mullingar.”
As details concerning the latest episode of hospital overcrowding emerged last week, fears were directed at what impact the crisis might have on patient safety.
Some, led by senior emergency department doctors, went so far as to claim patient lives were being placed in jeopardy.
At one stage, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO) recorded 601 people waiting for a bed and full admission with large numbers awaiting admission in corridors.
HSE chiefs were quick to question those figures, saying their records showed the number of patients waiting for admission fell from 513 to 354 in the afternoon.
Like many others, Cllr Nolan branded the problem an “absolute disgrace” but qualified those remarks by calling for clear and decisive action to be taken.
Apart from opening disused units, Cllr Nolan called on the government to press ahead with an extensive public sector recruitment campaign.
“It’s not rocket science here,” she said.
“You don’t have to be a medical professional. We need to keep hold of our brightest and our best junior doctors.”
Cllr Nolan said she was in regular contact with local TD James Bannon over her concerns and was hopeful of securing a meeting with Mr Varadkar before the end of January.
She also said the public needed to be made aware of the many other services that St Joseph’s still provides on a daily basis.
“This step down facility should be brought in as well as the fantastic care centre we have down there for our elderly,” she said.
In response, the Department of Health said because it was an operational matter, the HSE were best suited to provide a response.
A spokesperson for the HSE said steps were being taken to address overcrowding issues at Mullingar’s Midland Regional Hospital.
Specific questions concerning the prospect of a step-down facility being introduced at St Joseph’s Care Centre went unanswered however.